Long-term soil warming effects on microbial metabolisms

Soil microorganisms are responsible for the degradation of soil organic matter (SOM) and the subsequent release of CO2 from soils to the atmosphere. One major concern with climate change and rising temperatures is an acceleration of SOM degradation and increasing CO2 emissions from soils. Whether soils will act as carbon sources or sinks depends, besides on plants, on the microbial responses to long-term warming. However, little is known about the microbial-scale mechanisms that control ecosystem-scale responses to global warming – this is where our work comes in.

We use metatranscriptomics to analyze soil-dwelling microbial communities including Bacteria, Archaea, microbial Eukaryotes, fungi, and viruses and their expressed functions in two Icelandic grasslands belonging to the geothermal warming sites of the ForHot experiment. The ForHot experiment is the longest known in situ warming experiment (Sigurdsson et al. 2016) and includes two grassland sites that experience warming since 2008 and for more than 50 years, respectively.


Our main research questions:

How do the microbial communities change with increasing soil temperatures?
What are the global functional responses of soil microorganisms to increasing soil temperatures?
Are the microbial communities and/or specific taxa acclimating to increasing soil temperatures?
What is the range of physiological responses and microbial interactions that shape the soil microbiome response to warming?


The ForHot consortium consists of researchers from various diciplines dedicated to shed-light into the complex responses and feedbacks of soil ecosystems to long-term warming.


Our closest colaborators:

Bjarni D. Sigurdsson (Agricultural University of Iceland, Iceland)
Andreas Richter, Joana Séneca, Craig W. Herbold and Petra Pjevac (University of Vienna, Austria)
Tim Urich & Mathilde Borg Dahl (University of Greifswald, Germany)


Further reading:

Walker et al. 2020. A systemic overreaction to years versus decades of warming in a subarctic grassland ecosystem. Nature Ecology Evolution

Walker et al. 2018. Microbial temperature sensitivity and biomass change explain soil carbon loss with warming. Nature Climate Change

Sigurdsson et al. 2016. Geothermal ecosystems as natural climate change experiments: The ForHot research site in Iceland as a case study. Icelandic Agricultural Sciences


Further information and publications can be found here: forhot.is





*** back to CECO ***








last update: 29.05.2020

ForHot sampling site


ForHot meeting 2019, Sitges, Spain


*** CECO NEWS ***