We have investigated the structure of a microbial community in semi-natural sandy grassland in southeast Sweden. The sand is rich in lime, but in most places the soil is decalcified in the upper layers, and therefore this site shows a large variation in pH within short distances. We collected samples at three different soil depths (0-10 cm, 10-20 cm and 20-30 cm) and found the pH to range from 5 to 8 in the topsoil and from 4.5 to 9.5 in the deepest layer. The abundance of saprophytic fungi and bacteria was investigated using signature phospholipid fatty acids and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) using the neutral lipid fatty acid 16:1 omega 5. The PLFA pattern of the topsoil was different from that in the other two layers, as indicated by principal component analysis. The saprotrophic fungi were associated with high pH, and bacteria with low pH in these sandy soils. No relation was found between pH and AMF in the topsoil, while a positive relation was found in the deepest soil layer. The saprophytic fungi-to-bacteria ratio was constant with depth, while the AMF-to-bacteria ratio increased with soil depth. The results showed that high soil pH favoured fungal saprophytes in sandy grasslands and that AMF are relatively more abundant than the other two groups in deeper soil layers: particularly so when the pH is high. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.