Document Type


Publication Date



College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science


Warming and elevated CO2 (eCO2) are expected to facilitate vascular plant encroachment in peatlands. The rhizosphere, where microbial activity is fueled by root turnover and exudates, plays a crucial role in biogeochemical cycling, and will likely at least partially dictate the response of the belowground carbon cycle to climate changes. We leveraged the Spruce and Peatland Responses Under Changing Environments (SPRUCE) experiment, to explore the effects of a whole-ecosystem warming gradient (+0°C to 9°C) and eCO2 on vascular plant fine roots and their associated microbes. We combined trait-based approaches with the profiling of fungal and prokaryote communities in plant roots and rhizospheres, through amplicon sequencing. Warming promoted self-reliance for resource uptake in trees and shrubs, while saprophytic fungi and putative chemoorganoheterotrophic bacteria utilizing plant-derived carbon substrates were favored in the root zone. Conversely, eCO2 promoted associations between trees and ectomycorrhizal fungi. Trees mostly associated with short-distance exploration-type fungi that preferentially use labile soil N. Additionally, eCO2 decreased the relative abundance of saprotrophs in tree roots. Our results indicate that plant fine-root trait variation is a crucial mechanism through which vascular plants in peatlands respond to climate change via their influence on microbial communities that regulate biogeochemical cycles.

Publisher's Statement

© 2024 The Authors. New Phytologist © 2024 New Phytologist Foundation. Publisher’s version of record:

Publication Title

New Phytologist


Publisher's PDF