Soil depth matters: shift in composition and inter-kingdom co-occurrence patterns of microorganisms in forest soils

Sunil Mundra, O. Janne Kjønaas, Luis N. Morgado, Anders Kristian Krabberød, Yngvild Ransedokken, Havard Kauserud

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)


Soil depth represents a strong physiochemical gradient that greatly affects soil-dwelling microorganisms. Fungal communities are typically structured by soil depth, but how other microorganisms are structured is less known. Here, we tested whether depth-dependent variation in soil chemistry affects the distribution and co-occurrence patterns of soil microbial communities. This was investigated by DNA metabarcoding in conjunction with network analyses of bacteria, fungi, as well as other micro-eukaryotes, sampled in four different soil depths in Norwegian birch forests. Strong compositional turnover in microbial assemblages with soil depth was detected for all organismal groups. Significantly greater microbial diversity and fungal biomass appeared in the nutrient-rich organic layer, with sharp decrease towards the less nutrient-rich mineral zones. The proportions of copiotrophic bacteria, Arthropoda and Apicomplexa were markedly higher in the organic layer, while patterns were opposite for oligotrophic bacteria, Cercozoa, Ascomycota and ectomycorrhizal fungi. Network analyses indicated more intensive inter-kingdom co-occurrence patterns in the upper mineral layer (0-5 cm) compared to the above organic and the lower mineral soil, signifying substantial influence of soil depth on biotic interactions. This study supports the view that different microbial groups are adapted to different forest soil strata, with varying level of interactions along the depth gradient.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberfiab022
JournalFEMS Microbiology Ecology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2021


  • Betula pubescens
  • boreal birch forest
  • co-occurrences patterns
  • metabarcoding
  • microbial communities
  • microbial interactions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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