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Spatial and temporal variations in salt marsh microorganisms of the Wadden Sea

Cite this dataset

Rinke, Maria; Maraun, Mark; Scheu, Stefan (2022). Spatial and temporal variations in salt marsh microorganisms of the Wadden Sea [Dataset]. Dryad.


Salt marshes exist at the interface of the marine and the terrestrial system. Shore height differences and associated variations in inundation frequency result in altered abiotic conditions, plant communities and resource input into the belowground system. These factors result in three unique zones, the upper salt marsh (USM), the lower salt marsh (LSM) and the pioneer zone (PZ). Marine detritus, such as micro- and macroalgae, is typically flushed into the PZ daily, with storm surges moving both salt marsh detritus and marine detritus into higher salt marsh zones. Microbial assemblages are essential for the decomposition of organic matter and have been shown to sensitively respond to changes in abiotic conditions, such as oxygen supply and salinity. However, temporal and spatial dynamics of microbial communities of Wadden Sea salt marshes received little attention. We investigated the dynamics of soil microbial communities across horizontal (USM, LSM and PZ), vertical (0-5 and 5-10 cm sediment depth) and temporal (spring, summer and autumn) scales in the Wadden Sea salt marsh of the European North Atlantic coast using phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) analysis. Our results show strong spatial dynamics both among salt marsh zones and between sediment depths, but temporal dynamics to be only minor. Despite varying in space and time, PLFA markers indicated that bacteria generally were the dominant microbial group across salt marsh zones and seasons, however, their dominance was most pronounced in the USM, whereas fungal biomass peaked in the LSM and algal biomass in the PZ. Only algal markers and the stress marker monounsaturated to saturated fatty acid ratio responded to seasonality. Overall, therefore the results indicate remarkable temporal stability of salt marsh microbial communities despite strong variability in abiotic factors.


Soil cores were collected along five transects across three back-barrier salt marsh zones (USM - upper salt marsh situated >35cm above mean high-water level (MHWL), LSM - lower salt marsh situated 0-35 cm above MHWL and PZ - pioneer zone situated below MHWL) on the Wadden Sea island of Spiekeroog. Sampling took place in April (spring), July (summer) and October (autumn) 2019. (For details see methods of paper).

Per zone and transect one soil core was taken (5 cm diameter 10 cm depth), each core was separated into two horizons: The upper five centimeters (0-5 cm) and below (5-10 cm). Soil cores were sieved and material other than soil removed prior to phospholipid fatty acid extraction, each horizon was extracted separately. (see methods of paper for details).

Phospholipid data was calculated as nmol g-1

Usage notes

Soil phospholipids were separated into marker groups for further analysis (see README file).


Massachusetts Department of Fish & Game, Award: FOR 2716