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Faculty for Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences

Department Soil Ecology - Prof. Dr. Eva Lehndorff

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Frindte, K; Lehndorff, E; Vlaminck, S; Werner, K; Kehl, M; Khormali, F; Knief, C: Evidence for signatures of ancient microbial life in paleosols, Scientific Reports, 10 (2020), doi:10.1038/s41598-020-73938-9
Loess-paleosol sequences are terrestrial archives of past climate change. They may host traces of ancient microbial life, but little information is available on the recovery of microbial biomarkers from such deposits. We hypothesized that microbial communities in soil horizons up to an age of 127 kyr carry information related to past environments. We extracted DNA from a loess-paleosol sequence near Toshan, Northern Iran, with 26 m thick deposits showing different degrees of soil development, performed quantitative PCR and 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing. Periods of soil formation archived within the loess sediment led to higher diversity and bacterial abundance in the paleosol horizons. Community composition fluctuated over the loess-paleosol sequence and was mainly correlated with age and depth, (ADONIS R2 < 0.14, P ≤ 0.002), while responses to paleosol soil traits were weaker. Phyla like Bacteriodetes, Proteobacteria or Acidobacteria were more prevalent in paleosol horizons characterized by intense soil formation, while weakly developed paleosols or loess horizons hosted a higher percentage and diversity of Actinobacteria. Taken together, our findings indicate that the microbial community in loess-paleosol sequences carries signatures of earlier environmental conditions that are preserved until today.
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