Abstract In north-west Europe, large areas of open peatland have been drained and planted with spatially homogenous stands of non-native conifers. The detrimental impact of afforestation on peatland carbon and biodiversity have led to large-scale attempts to restore these landscapes back to their open, tree-less form. The responses of dominant microbial consumers − testate amoebae − to peatland forest-to-bog restoration are largely unexplored. We studied changes in testate amoebae with forest-to-bog restoration in the largest expanse of blanket bog in the UK and compared testate amoeba communities in relatively undisturbed open bog with forested and forest-to-bog restoration sites. Forested areas contained testate amoeba communities which were functionally different from open bog, characterised by a lack of mixotrophic taxa known to contribute to primary production. Seventeen years after restoration management, the microbial communities in the forest-to-bog sites remained more similar to forested areas than to the open bog community. Our results suggest that afforestation has reduced the trophic level of testate amoeba communities, which are only beginning to recover post-restoration in the wettest areas where Sphagnum has re-colonized. This study also highlights the need to consider a wide-range of reference sites to encompass the natural variability within ombrotrophic blanket bog. We conclude that testate amoebae have the potential to act as functionally-significant bio-indicators in peatlands undergoing forest-to-bog restoration.
- Blanket bog
- Testate amoebae