Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 62, Issue 4, pp 425–441 | Cite as

DNA metabarcoding reveals modern and past eukaryotic communities in a high-mountain peat bog system

  • Sandra Garcés-PastorEmail author
  • Owen S. Wangensteen
  • Aaron Pérez-Haase
  • Albert Pèlachs
  • Ramon Pérez-Obiol
  • Núria Cañellas-Boltà
  • Stefano Mariani
  • Teresa Vegas-Vilarrúbia
Original paper


Peat bogs located in high mountains are suitable places to study local environmental responses to climate variability. These ecosystems host a large number of eukaryotes with diverse taxonomic and functional diversity. We carried out a metabarcoding study using universal 18S and COI markers to explore the composition of past and present eukaryotic communities of a Pyrenean peat bog ecosystem. We assessed the molecular biodiversity of four different moss micro-habitats along a flood gradient in the lentic Bassa Nera system (Central Pyrenees). Five samples collected from different sediment depths at the same study site were also analysed, to test the suitability of these universal markers for studying paleoecological communities recovered from ancient DNA and to compare the detected DNA sequences to those obtained from the modern community. We also compared the information provided by the sedimentary DNA to the reconstruction from environmental proxies such as pollen and macro-remains from the same record. We successfully amplified ancient DNA with both universal markers from all sediment samples, including the deepest one (~ 10,000 years old). Most of the metabarcoding reads obtained from sediment samples, however, were assigned to living edaphic organisms and only a small fraction of those reads was considered to be derived from paleoecological communities. Inferences from ancient sedimentary DNA were complementary to the reconstruction based on pollen and macro-remains, and the combined records reveal more detailed information. This molecular study yielded promising findings regarding the diversity of modern eukaryotic peat bog communities. Nevertheless, even though information about past communities could be retrieved from sediment samples, preferential amplification of DNA from living communities is a caveat for the use of universal metabarcoding markers in paleoecology.


Sedimentary DNA Community DNA Peat bog paleoecology Eukaryotes Pyrenees 



We thank Professor Xavier Turon for providing us with the 18S primers. We are indebted to Editor Mark Brenner and to three anonymous reviewers for their suggestions, which contributed to improvement upon earlier versions of this manuscript.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sandra Garcés-Pastor
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Owen S. Wangensteen
    • 3
    • 4
  • Aaron Pérez-Haase
    • 1
    • 5
  • Albert Pèlachs
    • 6
  • Ramon Pérez-Obiol
    • 7
  • Núria Cañellas-Boltà
    • 8
  • Stefano Mariani
    • 3
  • Teresa Vegas-Vilarrúbia
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Evolutionary Biology, Ecology and Environmental SciencesUniversitat de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Tromsø MuseumUiT The Arctic University of NorwayTromsøNorway
  3. 3.Ecosystems and Environment Research Centre, School of Environment and Life SciencesUniversity of SalfordGreater ManchesterUK
  4. 4.Norwegian College of Fishery ScienceUiT The Arctic University of NorwayTromsøNorway
  5. 5.Center for Advanced Studies of BlanesSpanish Research Council (CEAB-CSIC)BlanesSpain
  6. 6.Department of GeographyUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBellaterraSpain
  7. 7.Botany Unit, Department of Animal Biology, Plant Biology and EcologyUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBellaterraSpain
  8. 8.Institute of Earth Sciences JaumeAlmera (ICTJA-CSIC)BarcelonaSpain

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