Wetlands are ecologically and economically important, providing ecosystem services such as biogeochemical cycling, carbon sequestration, flood mitigation, and wildlife habitat. Many of these services are the result of the unique microbial communities found in wetlands. Degradation and destruction of wetlands, from direct human development or indirect stressors caused by climate change, pollution, or invasive species, disrupts community structure and provision of services. Although restoration has been adopted as a mechanism to counteract net loss of function, the success rate in achieving functional equivalence with natural wetlands is low. To improve wetland conservation and outcomes for wetland creation, a better understanding of biotic community structure and biotic-abiotic relationships in developing wetlands is needed. By using the metagenomic approach of 16s rRNA amplicon sequencing, we can better understand the role of microbial communities as drivers of wetland biogeochemical cycling and predict future resilience. I evaluated environmental factors and microbial community structure of young and mature back barrier salt marshes and depressional freshwater wetlands. Salt marshes are particularly vulnerable to climate change. Evaluation of amplicon data suggests an increase in diversity and functional redundancy with marsh age, but also potential for greater resilience in the Young Marsh, where sandier sediments limit waterlogging and anoxia. In created freshwater wetlands, antecedent land use and hydrology may drive soil physico-chemistry and shape microbial community structure, which is distinctly different from mature, reference wetlands. Management of soils by amending with leaf litter compost drives abiotic factors closer to a mature marsh, but at the same time results in a unique microbial community unlike either a young or mature wetland. This suggests a potential shift in function away from the desired trajectory. Evaluation of the microbial community structure provides insight into underlying wetland function and promotes development of management practices to maximize function and overall resilience.
Environmental Science (MS)
Department, Program, or Center
Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences (COS)
Anna Christina Tyler
Gary R. Skuse
Owens, Wendy A., "Development of soil microbial community structure in created and natural wetlands" (2022). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
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