Floristically diverse Nardo-Galion upland grasslands are common in Ireland and the UK and are valuable in agricultural, environmental and ecological terms. Under improvement (inputs of lime, fertiliser and re-seeding), they convert to mesotrophic grassland containing very few plant species. The effects of upland grassland improvement and seasonality on soil microbial communities were investigated at an upland site. Samples were taken at five times in one year in order to observe seasonal trends, and bacterial community structure was monitored using automated ribosomal intergenic spacer analysis (ARISA), a DNA-fingerprinting approach. Differences in soil chemistry and bacterial community structure between unimproved and improved grassland soils were noted. Season was also found to cause mild fluctuations in bacterial community structure, with soil samples from colder months (October and December) more correlated with change in ribotype profiles than samples from warmer months. However, for the majority of seasons clear differences in bacterial community structures from unimproved and improved soils could be seen, indicating seasonal influences did not obscure effects associated with improvement. (c) 2005 Federation of European Microbiological Societies. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.