Soil microbial communities regulate global biogeochemical cycles and respond rapidly to changing environmental conditions. However, understanding how soil microbial communities respond to climate change, and how this influences biogeochemical cycles, remains a major challenge. This is especially pertinent in alpine regions where climate change is taking place at double the rate of the global average, with large reductions in snow cover and earlier spring snowmelt expected as a consequence. Here, we show that spring snowmelt triggers an abrupt transition in the composition of soil microbial communities of alpine grassland that is closely linked to shifts in soil microbial functioning and biogeochemical pools and fluxes. Further, by experimentally manipulating snow cover we show that this abrupt seasonal transition in wide-ranging microbial and biogeochemical soil properties is advanced by earlier snowmelt. Preceding winter conditions did not change the processes that take place during snowmelt. Our findings emphasise the importance of seasonal dynamics for soil microbial communities and the biogeochemical cycles that they regulate. Moreover, our findings suggest that earlier spring snowmelt due to climate change will have far reaching consequences for microbial communities and nutrient cycling in these globally widespread alpine ecosystems.
- Climate Change
- Soil Microbiology