While bacteria can affect plant growth, nutrition and resistance in both natural and agricultural communities, we lack a fundamental understanding of the local and regional forces that drive community assembly and composition. Here, we sampled roots from an arctic plant community across an altitudinal gradient in northeastern Greenland (Zackenberg Research Station), a pristine natural site with the highest predicted rates of climatic change.
The main aim of the project is to disentangle the impact of climatic variation and plant species on the bacterial community associated with the plant roots. As we have sampled the roots along a 50-meter transect at each of 15 locations across the altitudinal gradient, we can directly evaluate four long-standing questions with key relevance for climate change:
i) What is the impact of altitude (which is a proxy for climate change) on the bacterial community?
ii) What is the impact of plant species on the bacterial community?
iii) Do keystone species within the plant-bacterial network change with climate?
iv) At what spatial scale (i.e. among or within sites) do we find most variation in the bacterial community?
Importantly, this research would provide one of the first fundamental insights in the potential impact of climate change on a natural plant-bacterial network. From an applied conservation perspective, the understanding of plant-bacterial networks in a pristine environment located in the area with the highest predicted climate change may forewarn us about the changes we can expect to occur with future climatic changes.