Plant and Soil

, Volume 369, Issue 1–2, pp 151–164 | Cite as

Snow cover manipulation effects on microbial community structure and soil chemistry in a mountain bog

  • Bjorn J. M. Robroek
  • Amber Heijboer
  • Vincent E. J. Jassey
  • Mariet M. Hefting
  • T. Gerrit Rouwenhorst
  • Alexandre Buttler
  • Luca Bragazza
Regular Article


Background and Aims

Alterations in snow cover driven by climate change may impact ecosystem functioning, including biogeochemistry and soil (microbial) processes. We elucidated the effects of snow cover manipulation (SCM) on above-and belowground processes in a temperate peatland.


In a Swiss mountain-peatland we manipulated snow cover (addition, removal and control), and assessed the effects on Andromeda polifolia root enzyme activity, soil microbial community structure, and leaf tissue and soil biogeochemistry.


Reduced snow cover produced warmer soils in our experiment while increased snow cover kept soil temperatures close-to-freezing. SCM had a major influence on the microbial community, and prolonged ‘close-to-freezing’ temperatures caused a shift in microbial communities toward fungal dominance. Soil temperature largely explained soil microbial structure, while other descriptors such as root enzyme activity and pore-water chemistry interacted less with the soil microbial communities.


We envisage that SCM-driven changes in the microbial community composition could lead to substantial changes in trophic fluxes and associated ecosystem processes. Hence, we need to improve our understanding on the impact of frost and freeze-thaw cycles on the microbial food web and its implications for peatland ecosystem processes in a changing climate; in particular for the fate of the sequestered carbon.


Soil bacterial and fungal communities Peatland Phosphatase activity Phospholipid fatty acids (PLFA) Snow cover manipulation Winter Ecology 



We would like to thank the “Service des forêts, de la faune et de la nature (SFFN)-Canton Vaud” and “Pro Nature-Vaud” for authorization to access the study site. Sonia Mauerhofer is acknowledged for assistance in site selection, and Annebet Brühl for assistance in field sampling. Robert TE Mills corrected our English, for which many thanks. We thank two anonymous referees and Tim Moore for helpful suggestions on earlier versions of this paper. This study was supported by the Division for Earth and Life Sciences (ALW) with financial aid from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO; Research Innovation Scheme grant 863.10.014) granted to BJMR, by BiodivERsA-PEATBOG which is funded as an ERA-net project within the European Union’s 6th Framework Programme for Research through NWO-ALW (grant 832.09.003), and was partly funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (grant 205321–129981 to LB). We are also indebted to the Miquel Foundation (UU), the Foundation for the Conservation of Irish Bogs, and the Schure-Beijerink-Popping Foundation (KNAW) for financial support to AH.

Supplementary material

11104_2012_1547_Fig6_ESM.jpg (168 kb)
Fig. S1

Snow depths (cm) at the Swiss Jura as measured in the La Cure (46°28 N, 06°05″ E, 1,186 m a.s.l.) meteorological station (SwissMeteo). Open circles represent average snow depths (cm) ± SEM over the 2005/2006–2009/2010 winter seasons. Black symbols represent the average snow depth at La Cure over the 2010/2011 winter. (JPEG 31 kb)

11104_2012_1547_MOESM1_ESM.eps (867 kb)
High resolution image (EPS 866 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bjorn J. M. Robroek
    • 1
    • 2
  • Amber Heijboer
    • 1
  • Vincent E. J. Jassey
    • 2
    • 3
  • Mariet M. Hefting
    • 1
  • T. Gerrit Rouwenhorst
    • 1
  • Alexandre Buttler
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Luca Bragazza
    • 2
    • 3
    • 5
  1. 1.Ecology and Biodiversity, Institute of Environmental SciencesUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  2. 2.School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering (ENAC), Laboratory of Ecological Systems (ECOS)École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)LausanneSwitzerland
  3. 3.WSL - Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape ResearchLausanneSwitzerland
  4. 4.University of Franche-Comté—CNRS, UMR 6249 Chrono-environnementBesançon cedexFrance
  5. 5.Department of Life Science and BiotechnologiesUniversity of FerraraFerraraItaly

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