Alteration of Microbial Communities Colonizing Leaf Litter in a Temperate Woodland Stream by Growth of Trees under Conditions of Elevated Atmospheric CO2
Elevated atmospheric CO2 can cause increased carbon fixation and altered foliar chemical composition in a variety of plants, which has the potential to impact forested headwater streams because they are detritus-based ecosystems that rely on leaf litter as their primary source of organic carbon. Fungi and bacteria play key roles in the entry of terrestrial carbon into aquatic food webs, as they decompose leaf litter and serve as a source of nutrition for invertebrate consumers. This study tested the hypothesis that changes in leaf chemistry caused by elevated atmospheric CO2 would result in changes in the size and composition of microbial communities colonizing leaves in a woodland stream. Three tree species, Populus tremuloides, Salix alba, and Acer saccharum, were grown under ambient (360 ppm) or elevated (720 ppm) CO2, and their leaves were incubated in a woodland stream. Elevated-CO2 treatment resulted in significant increases in the phenolic and tannin contents and C/N ratios of leaves. Microbial effects, which occurred only for P. tremuloides leaves, included decreased fungal biomass and decreased bacterial counts. Analysis of fungal and bacterial communities on P. tremuloides leaves via terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) and clone library sequencing revealed that fungal community composition was mostly unchanged by the elevated-CO2 treatment, whereas bacterial communities showed a significant shift in composition and a significant increase in diversity. Specific changes in bacterial communities included increased numbers of alphaproteobacterial and cytophaga-flavobacter-bacteroides (CFB) group sequences and decreased numbers of betaproteobacterial and firmicutes sequences, as well as a pronounced decrease in overall Gram-positive bacterial sequences.