Microbial Ecology

, Volume 62, Issue 1, pp 80–93 | Cite as

The Potential Influence of Short-term Environmental Variability on the Composition of Testate Amoeba Communities in Sphagnum Peatlands

  • Maura E. Sullivan
  • Robert K. BoothEmail author
Environmental Microbiology


Testate amoebae are a group of moisture-sensitive, shell-producing protozoa that have been widely used as indicators of changes in mean water-table depth within oligotrophic peatlands. However, short-term environmental variability (i.e., sub-annual) also probably influences community composition. The objective of this study was to assess the potential influence of short-term environmental variability on the composition of testate amoeba communities in Sphagnum-dominated peatlands. Testate amoebae and environmental conditions, including hourly measurements of relative humidity within the upper centimeter of the peatland surface, were examined throughout the 2008 growing season at 72 microsites within 11 peatlands of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, USA. Relationships among testate amoeba communities, vegetation, depth to water table, pH, and an index of short-term environmental variability (EVI), were examined using nonmetric multidimensional scaling and correlation analysis. Results suggest that EVI influences testate amoeba communities, with some taxa more abundant under highly variable conditions (e.g., Arcella discoides, Difflugia pulex, and Hyalosphenia subflava) and others more abundant when environmental conditions at the peatland surface were relatively stable (e.g., Archerella flavum and Bullinularia indica). The magnitude of environmental variability experienced at the peatland surface appears to be primarily controlled by vegetation composition and density. In particular, sites with dense Sphagnum cover had lower EVI values than sites with loose-growing Sphagnum or vegetation dominated by vascular plants and/or non-Sphagnum bryophytes. Our results suggest that more environmental information may be inferred from testate amoebae than previously recognized. Knowledge of relationships between testate amoebae and short-term environmental variability should lead to more detailed and refined environmental inferences.


Trout Lake Environmental Variability Peat Surface Ericaceous Shrub Relative Humidity Environment 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



An American Women in Science Pre-Doctoral award and a Lehigh University College of Arts and Science summer research fellowship to MES made this work possible. Travel and fieldwork in Wisconsin was supported by a grant from the US Geological Survey (Global Climate Change Program) to RKB. For permission to conduct research on Tannersville Bog, Titus Bog, and the Trout Lake peatlands, we thank The Nature Conservancy, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, and the Trout Lake Research Station of the University of Wisconsin, respectively. Many students and colleagues provided field and laboratory assistance, most notably Jake Kleinknecht, Julie Loisel, Alex W. Ireland, George B. Yasko, Sean K. Sullivan, Erin Markel, and Valerie Sousa. Gilles Ayotte and Julie Loisel assisted with Sphagnum identification, and Christopher J. Bochicchio helped with data analysis.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Earth and Environmental SciencesLehigh UniversityBethlehemUSA

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