Soil microbial community structure is unaltered by plant invasion, vegetation clipping, and nitrogen fertilization in experimental semi-arid grasslands

Abstract

Global and regional environmental changes often co-occur, creating complex gradients of disturbance on the landscape. Soil microbial communities are an important component of ecosystem response to environmental change, yet little is known about how microbial structure and function respond to multiple disturbances, or whether multiple environmental changes lead to unanticipated interactive effects. Our study used experimental semi-arid grassland plots in a Mediterranean-climate to determine how soil microbial communities in a seasonally variable ecosystem respond to one, two, or three simultaneous environmental changes: exotic plant invasion, plant invasion + vegetation clipping (to simulate common management practices like mowing or livestock grazing), plant invasion + nitrogen (N) fertilization, and plant invasion + clipping + N fertilization. We examined microbial community structure 5-6 years after plot establishment via sequencing of >1 million 16S rRNA genes. Abiotic soil properties (soil moisture, temperature, pH, and inorganic N) and microbial functioning (nitrification and denitrification potentials) were also measured and showed treatment-induced shifts, including altered NO(-) 3 availability, temperature, and nitrification potential. Despite these changes, bacterial and archaeal communities showed little variation in composition and diversity across treatments. Even communities in plots exposed to three interacting environmental changes were similar to those in restored native grassland plots. Historical exposure to large seasonal and inter-annual variations in key soil properties, in addition to prior site cultivation, may select for a functionally plastic or largely dormant microbial community, resulting in a microbial community that is structurally robust to single and multiple environmental changes.

DOI: 10.3389/fmicb.2015.00466

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@inproceedings{Carey2015SoilMC, title={Soil microbial community structure is unaltered by plant invasion, vegetation clipping, and nitrogen fertilization in experimental semi-arid grasslands}, author={Chelsea Carey and J. Michael Beman and Valerie T. Eviner and Carolyn M Malmstrom and Stephen C. Hart}, booktitle={Front. Microbiol.}, year={2015} }