Bacterial communities in peat swamps reflect changes associated with catchment urbanisation

Nicole A. Christiansen*, Timothy J. Green, Kirstie A. Fryirs, Grant C. Hose

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    2 Citations (Scopus)
    26 Downloads (Pure)


    Like many peat wetlands around the world, Temperate Highland Peat Swamps on Sandstone (THPSS), located in the Sydney Basin, Australia, have been impacted by urban development. In this paper, we used Illumina 16S rRNA DNA amplicon sequencing to characterise and compare the bacterial communities of surface (top 0–2 cm) and deep (50 cm) sediments in peat swamps that occur in both urbanised and non-urbanised catchments. Proteobacteria (32.2% of reads), Acidobacteria (23.6%) and Chloroflexi (10.7%) were the most common phyla of the dataset. There were significant differences in the bacterial community structure between catchment types and depths apparent at the phyla level. Proteobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Actinobacteria and Verrucomicrobia made up a greater proportion of the reads in the surface sediments than the deeper sediments, while Chloroflexi and Nitrospirae were relatively more common in the deeper than the surface sediment. By catchment type, Acidobacteria were more common in swamps occurring in non-urbanised catchments, while Nitrospirae, Bacteroidetes and Actinobacteria were more common in those in urbanised catchments. Microbial community structure was significantly correlated with sediment pH, as was the relative abundance of several phyla, including Acidobacteria (negative correlation) and Bacteroidetes (positive correlation). As an indicator of trophic shift from oligotrophic to copiotrophic conditions associated with urbanised catchment, we found significant differences ratios of β-Proteobacteria to Acidobacteria and Bacteriodetes to Acidobacteria between the catchment types. Based on SIMPER results we suggest the relative abundance of Nitrosomonadaceae family as a potential indicator of urban degradation. As the first study to analyse the bacterial community structure of THPSS using sequencing of 16S rDNA, we reveal the utility of such analyses and show that urbanisation in the Blue Mountains is impacting the microbial ecology of these important peatland ecosystems.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1455-1468
    Number of pages14
    JournalUrban Ecosystems
    Issue number5
    Early online date13 May 2022
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright the Author(s) 2022. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


    • Bacterial community
    • Illumina sequencing
    • Peatland
    • Swamp
    • Temperate Highland Peat Swamps on Sandstone
    • Urbanisation
    • Wetland


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