The temperature-driven adaptation of the bacterial community in peat was studied, by altering temperature to simulate self-heating and a subsequent return to mesophilic conditions. The technique used consisted of extracting the bacterial community from peat using homogenization-centrifugation and measuring the rates of thymidine (TdR) or leucine (Leu) incorporation by the extracted bacterial community at different temperatures. Increasing the peat incubation temperature from 25°C to 35, 45, or 55°C resulted in a selection of bacterial communities whose optimum temperatures for activity correlated to the peat incubation temperatures. Although TdR and Leu incorporations were significantly correlated, the Leu/TdR incorporation ratios were affected by temperature. Higher Leu/TdR incorporation ratios were found at higher temperatures of incubation of the extracted bacterial community. Higher Leu/TdR incorporation ratios were also found for bacteria in peat samples incubated at higher temperatures. The reappearance of the mesophilic community and disappearance of the thermophilic community when the incubation temperature of the peat was shifted down were monitored by measuring TdR incorporation at 55°C (thermophilic activity) and 25°C (mesophilic activity). Shifting the peat incubation temperature from 55 to 25°C resulted in a recovery of the mesophilic activity, with a subsequent disappearance of the thermophilic activity. The availability of substrate for bacterial growth varied over time and among different peat samples. To avoid confounding effects of substrate availability, a temperature adaptation index was calculated. This index consisted of the log10 ratio of TdR incorporation at 55 and 25°C. The temperature index decreased linearly with time, indicating that no thermophilic activity would be detected by the TdR technique 1 month after the temperature downshift. There were no differences between the slopes of the temperature adaptation indices over time for peat samples incubated at 55°C 3 or 11 days before incubation at 25°C. Thus, different levels of bacterial activity did not affect the temperature-driven adaptation of the bacterial community.