Prokaryotes colonize decaying wood and contribute to the degradation process, but the dynamics of prokaryotic communities during wood decay is still poorly understood. We studied the abundance and community composition of Bacteria and Archaea inhabiting naturally decaying Picea abies logs and tested the hypothesis that the variations in archaeal and bacterial abundances and community composition are coupled with environmental parameters related to the decay process. The data set comprises >500 logs at different decay stages from five geographical locations in south and central Finland. The results show that Bacteria and Archaea are an integral and dynamic component of decaying wood biota. The abundances of bacterial and archaeal 16S rRNA genes increase as wood decay progresses. Changes in bacterial community composition are clearly linked to the loss of density of wood, while specific fungal–bacterial interactions may also affect the distribution of bacterial taxa in decaying wood. Thaumarchaeota were prominent members of the archaeal populations colonizing decaying wood, providing further evidence of the versatility and cosmopolitan nature of this phylum in the environment. The composition and dynamics of the prokaryotic community suggest that they are an active component of biota that are involved in processing substrates in decaying wood material.
One sentence summary: Decaying Norway spruce logs provide habitat for diverse communities of Bacteria and Archaea.