Phylogeny and metabolic potential of a primary tropical peat swamp forest microbial community

Tropical peatland ecosystems represent one of the largest terrestrial organic carbon sinks. Degradation of plant biomass in peat swamps is slow owing to conditions of acidity, low nutrients and high tannin. Information on microbial diversity and the underlying biogeochemical processes of this unique ecosystem would allow us to better utilize and manage microbial bioresources, and to improve conservation efforts.

The aims of this research are to:
  • Explore the microbial community in the surface peat layer in Pru Toh Daeng, a primary tropical peat swamp forest
  • Investigate the phylogenetic diversity and metabolic potential of microbial community using direct shotgun pyrosequencing of environmental DNA, together with analyses of 16S rRNA gene library and key metabolic genes
  • Identify potential microbes and unique metabolic pathway with potential economic values and for industrial applications

Recent studies revealed that the microbial community found in Pru Toh Daeng peat swamp is dominated by Acidobacteria and diverse Proteobacteria. A variety of glycosyl hydrolases targeting lignocellulosic and starch-base polysaccharides were annotated, suggesting key roles of these microbes in plant biomass degradation. Direct mcrA gene analyses indicate the presence of methanogenic archaea clusters, suggesting the potential of partial carbon flux from biomass degradation through methanogenesis.


This joint project on “Phylogeny and metabolic potential of a primary tropical peat swamp forest microbial community” was developed under the collaboration of three BIOTEC Research Units namely Genome Institute, Bioresources Technology Unit and Food Biotechnology Research Unit.

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Posted on 1 October 2012