Date of Award


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Applied Ecology (MS)

College, School or Department Name

School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science


Erik A Lilleskov


Globally, peatlands occupy a small portion of terrestrial land area but contain up to one-third of all soil organic carbon. This carbon pool is vulnerable to increased decomposition under projected climate change scenarios but little is known about how plant functional groups will influence microbial communities responsible for regulating carbon cycling processes. Here we examined initial shifts in microbial community structure within two sampling depths under plant functional group manipulations in mesocosms of an oligotrophic bog. Microbial community composition for bacteria and archaea was characterized using targeted 16S rRNA Illumina gene sequencing. We found statistically distinct spatial patterns between the more shallow 10-20 cm sampling depth and the deeper 30-40 cm depth. Significant effects by plant functional groups were found only within the 10-20 cm depth, indicating plant-mediated microbial community shifts respond more quickly near the peat surface. Specifically, the relative abundance of Acidobacteria decreased under ericaceous shrub treatments in the 10-20 cm depth and was replaced by increased abundance of Gammaproteobacteria and Bacteroidetes. In contrast, the sedge rhizosphere continued to be dominated by Acidobacteria but also promoted an increase in the relative recovery of Alphaproteobacteria and Verrucomicrobia. These initial results suggest microbial communities under ericaceous shrubs may be limited by anaerobic soil conditions accompanying high water table conditions, while sedge aerenchyma may be promoting aerobic taxa in the upper peat rhizosphere regardless of ambient soil oxygen limitations.