Soil microbial communities along elevational gradients in the Madrean Sky Islands

Adalee Martinez, Gabriele Schiro, Albert Barberán

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Madrean Sky Islands are mountain ranges isolated by a ‘desert sea’. This area is a biodiversity hotspot currently threatened by climate change. Here, we studied soil microbial communities along elevational gradients in eight Madrean Sky Islands in southeastern Arizona (USA). Our results showed that while elevational microbial richness gradients were weak and not consistent across different mountains, soil properties strongly influenced microbial community composition (overall composition and the abundance of key functional groups) along elevational gradients. In particular, warming is associated with a higher abundance of soil-borne fungal plant pathogens that concomitantly might facilitate upward elevational shifts of plant species released from negative plant–soil feedbacks. Furthermore, projected warming and drought in the area aggravated by anthropogenic nitrogen deposition on mountain tops (and thus, decreasing nitrogen limitation) can enhance a shift from ectomycorrhizal to arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. Overall, these results indicate that climate change effects on plant–soil interactions might have profound ecosystem consequences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere16596
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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