PS 11-107
Microbial functional diversity in Harvard Forest soils

Monday, August 5, 2013
Exhibit Hall B, Minneapolis Convention Center
Jacob Parnell, National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON, Inc.), Boulder, CO
Jack A. Gilbert, Earth Microbiome Project (, University of Chicago, Argonne National Laboratories, Chicago

Metatranscriptomics explores microbial communities to determine how they respond to environmental changes. This approach provides information beyond the community’s genomic potential towards actual function and activity and provides information on less abundant microorganisms that may contribute to ecosystem processes. Soil ecosystems represent a crucial function in global biogeochemical cycling and measurements of active microbial communities will help refine climate models. Here we examine the functional diversity of microbial communities in Harvard Forest soils using metatranscriptomics. Ten samples were collected from six National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) plots of different vegetation type to determine within- and between-plot variation in functional diversity. 


Each sample yielded between 34,000 and 489,000 reads of enriched community mRNA. Organism abundance analysis using MG-RAST best hit classification suggested that the two samples collected in red oak plots clustered together and the samples collected in successional shrubland clustered, but samples collected in a disturbed plot did not cluster together. Functionally all samples collected within the same plot clustered together. These data suggest that despite differences in taxonomic diversity within plots functional diversity remains similar.