Open Access Research article

Soil bacterial communities shaped by geochemical factors and land use in a less-explored area, Tibetan Plateau

Xiangyu Guan13, Jinfeng Wang2, Hui Zhao2, Jianjun Wang4, Ximing Luo3, Fei Liu1* and Fangqing Zhao2*

Author Affiliations

1 Beijing Key Laboratory of Water Resources and Environmental Engineering, China University of Geosciences, Beijing 100083, China

2 Beijing Institutes of Life Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China

3 School of Ocean Sciences, China University of Geosciences, Beijing 100083, China

4 State Key Laboratory of Lake Science and Environment, Nanjing Institute of Geography and Limnology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Nanjing 210008, China

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BMC Genomics 2013, 14:820  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-820

Published: 22 November 2013



As the largest low-latitude permafrost region, the Tibetan Plateau (TP) is an important part of the earth’s terrestrial ecosystem and one of the most vulnerable areas to climate change and human activities. However, to the best of our knowledge, the bacterial communities in TP soils and their roles in biogeochemical cycles remain limited.


In this study, we report the bacterial community structure and function as well as their correlation with environmental factors in TP major ecosystems (farmland, alpine meadow and oligosaline lake) by using metagenomic approaches. Compared with other soil samples in various environments, TP soils share a core set of microorganisms with a distinct abundance and composition. Among TP soil samples, the taxonomic and functional composition of bacterial communities among the upper (3-5 cm) and lower (18-20 cm) soils of farmland sites were highly similar, whereas the dissimilarities within alpine meadow samples were significantly greater than among farmland samples. A similar pattern was observed in elements cycles and pathways associated with adaption to environment and land use types. Canonical correlation analysis revealed that the bacterial communities in most of farmland and alpine meadow soil samples were also significantly correlated with geogenic variables. Specifically, the root-nodule bacteria are negatively correlated with the soil moisture and pH, while Thiobacillus associated with sulfur cycles show potential responses to low temperature and intense UV radiation.


These findings indicate that the bacterial community structure and functions in TP soils were influenced by both human activities and soil environmental properties, and that the bacterial communities appeared to be more homogenized in the farmland soils compared with pristine alpine meadows.

Bacterial community; Homogenization; Metagenomics; Soil; Tibetan Plateau