Image_1_Microbial Community Structure in a Malaysian Tropical Peat Swamp Forest: The Influence of Tree Species and Depth.pdf

Tropical peat swamp forests sequester globally significant stores of carbon in deep layers of waterlogged, anoxic, acidic and nutrient-depleted peat. The roles of microbes in supporting these forests through the formation of peat, carbon sequestration and nutrient cycling are virtually unknown. This study investigated physicochemical peat properties and microbial diversity between three dominant tree species: Shorea uliginosa (Dipterocarpaceae), Koompassia malaccensis (legumes associated with nitrogen-fixing bacteria), Eleiodoxa conferta (palm) and depths (surface, 45 and 90 cm) using microbial 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing. Water pH, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, total phenolic contents and C/N ratio differed significantly between depths, but not tree species. Depth also strongly influenced microbial diversity and composition, while both depth and tree species exhibited significant impact on the archaeal communities. Microbial diversity was highest at the surface, where fresh leaf litter accumulates, and nutrient supply is guaranteed. Nitrogen was the core parameter correlating to microbial communities, but the interactive effects from various environmental variables displayed significant correlation to relative abundance of major microbial groups. Proteobacteria was the dominant phylum and the most abundant genus, Rhodoplanes, might be involved in nitrogen fixation. The most abundant methanogens and methanotrophs affiliated, respectively, to families Methanomassiliicoccaceae and Methylocystaceae. Our results demonstrated diverse microbial communities and provide valuable insights on microbial ecology in these extreme ecosystems.