Kostka, J. E. et al., 2016. New Phytologist

The Sphagnum microbiome: new insights from an ancient plant lineage

Joel E. Kostka, David J. Weston, Jennifer B. Glass, Erik A. Lilleskov, Jonathan A. Shaw, and Merritt R. Turetsky
13 May 2016, New Phytologist 211: 57-64, DOI: 10.1111/nph.13993


Peat mosses of the genus Sphagnum play a major role in global carbon storage and dominate
many northern peatland ecosystems, which are currently being subjected to some of the most
rapid climate changes on Earth. A rapidly expanding database indicates that a diverse community
of microorganisms is intimately associated with Sphagnum, inhabiting the tissues and surface of
the plant. Here we summarize the current state of knowledge regarding the Sphagnum
microbiome and provide a perspective for future research directions. Although the majority of
the microbiome remains uncultivated and its metabolic capabilities uncharacterized, prokaryotes
and fungi have the potential to act as mutualists, symbionts, or antagonists of Sphagnum. For
example, methanotrophic and nitrogen-fixing bacteria may benefit the plant host by providing
up to 20–30% of Sphagnum carbon and nitrogen, respectively. Next-generation sequencing
approaches have enabled the detailed characterization of microbiome community composition
in peat mosses. However, as with other ecologically or economically important plants, our
knowledge of Sphagnum–microbiome associations is in its infancy. In order to attain a predictive
understanding of the role of the microbiome in Sphagnum productivity and ecosystem function,
the mechanisms of plant–microbiome interactions and the metabolic potential of constituent
microbial populations must be revealed.


Kostka, J. E., Weston, D. J., Glass, J. B., Lilleskov, E. A., Shaw, A. J. and Turetsky, M. R. (2016), The Sphagnum microbiome: new insights from an ancient plant lineage. New Phytol, 211: 57–64. doi:10.1111/nph.13993