Microbial indicators of peatland degradation and restoration at Holme Moss

How do restoration projects affect soil microbial communities? What are the functional implications for the soil? How can we use microbial community data to improve land management?

Indicator species analysis

  • Which microbes “drive” the community ordination?
  • Which microbes can indicate biotic and abiotic factors of interest?
  • Methods of De Caceres and Legendre (2009) implemented in indicspecies package for R

Practicalities of using microbial indicators

  • Community sequencing affordable, getting cheaper. Using the community as an indicator of multiple factors is a real possibility
  • Pre-identified indicators can be detected by cheaper means. e.g. real-time PCR, microarray
  • Microbial indicators not established but easy to find candidates

Possible Applications of microbial indicators

  • Biomonitor
    • Pollution e.g. heavy metals, N
    • Pathogen
    • Invasive / non-native species
  • Assess ecological process potential
    • Methanotrophy
    • Nitrogen fixation
    • Carbon fixation
    • Bioremediation
  • Degradation risk warning
  • Restoration success indicator
  • Identify suitable sites for plant/sphagnum introduction
  • Monitoring areas with little macroscopic life / diversity


  • Land management practice clearly evidenced in soil microbiome
  • Functional implications poorly understood but can be deduced by range of methods
  • Great potential for using microbes as ecological indicators