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Metabarcoding data reveal vertical multitaxa variation in topsoil communities during the colonization of deglaciated forelands

Cite this dataset

Guerrieri, Alessia et al. (2023). Metabarcoding data reveal vertical multitaxa variation in topsoil communities during the colonization of deglaciated forelands [Dataset]. Dryad.


Ice-free areas are increasing worldwide due to the dramatic glacier shrinkage and are undergoing rapid colonization by multiple lifeforms, thus representing key environments to study ecosystem development. Soils have a complex vertical structure. However, we know little about how microbial and animal communities differ across soil depths and development stages during the colonization of deglaciated terrains, how these differences evolve through time, and whether patterns are consistent among different taxonomic groups. Here, we used environmental DNA metabarcoding to describe how community diversity and composition of six groups (Eukaryota, Bacteria, Mycota, Collembola, Insecta, Oligochaeta) differ between surface (0-5 cm) and relatively deep (7.5-20 cm) soils at different stages of development across five Alpine glaciers. Taxonomic diversity increased with time since glacier retreat and with soil evolution; the pattern was consistent across different groups and soil depths. For Eukaryota, and particularly Mycota, alpha-diversity was generally the highest in soils close to the surface. Time since glacier retreat was a more important driver of community composition compared to soil depth; for nearly all the taxa, differences in community composition between surface and deep soils decreased with time since glacier retreat, suggesting that the development of soil and/or of vegetation tends to homogenize the first 20 cm of soil through time. Within both Bacteria and Mycota, several molecular operational taxonomic units were significant indicators of specific depths and/or soil development stages, confirming the strong functional variation of microbial communities through time and depth. The complexity of community patterns highlights the importance of integrating information from multiple taxonomic groups to unravel community variation in response to ongoing global changes.


Libraries were prepared following the MetaFast protocol (Taberlet et al., 2018) and sequenced using the MiSeq (Bact02 and Fung02) or HiSeq 2500 (Arth02, Coll01, Euka02, Inse01, Olig01, Sper01) Illumina platforms (Illumina, San Diego, CA, USA) with a paired-end approach (2 × 250 bp for Bact02 and Fung02, and 2 × 150 bp for the others markers) at Fasteris (SA, Geneva, Switzerland). For each marker, the sequence depth corresponded to 10,000 reads per sample.

Usage notes

Sequence data have been processed using the OBITools software suit (version 1.2.9) then filtered and analyzed in R (version 4.0). All scripts to reproduce data processing are provided here and described in the "Methods" section of the manuscript. See "Data Accessibility" section of the manuscript to access raw sequence data. 


European Commission, Award: Grant Agreement no. 772284 (IceCommunities)

European Research Council, Award: 772284