Bacteria and fungi are ecologically important contributors to various functioning of forest ecosystems. In this study, we examined simultaneously the bacterial and fungal distributions in response to elevation changes of a forest. By using clone library analysis from genomic DNA extracted from forest humic clay soils, the composition and diversity of bacterial and fungal communities were determined across an elevation gradient from low via medium to high, in a subtropical forest in the Mountain Lushan, China. Our results showed that soil water content and nutrient availability, specifically total carbon, differed significantly with elevation changes. Although the soil acidity did not differ significantly among the three sites, low pH (around 4) could be an important selection factor selecting for acidophilic Acidobacteria and Alphaproteobacteria, which were the most abundant bacterial clones. As the majority of the fungi recovered, both Basidiomycota and Ascomycota, and their relative abundance were most closely associated with the total carbon. Based on the Shannon-Weaver diversity index and ∫-libshuff analysis, the soil at medium elevation contained the highest diversity of bacteria compared with those at high and low elevations. However, it is difficult to predict overall fungal diversity along elevation. The extreme high soil moisture content which may lead to the formation of anaerobic microhabitats in the forest soils potentially reduces the overall bacterial and fungal diversity.
- Elevation gradient