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Strong functional stability of soil microbial communities under semiarid Mediterranean conditions and subjected to long-term shifts in baseline precipitation

Soil Biology and Biochemistry
DOI: 10.1016/j.soilbio.2013.10.045
  • Functional Stability
  • Co2
  • Adaptation
  • Soil Bacterial Communities
  • Diversity
  • Mediterranean Climate
  • Extreme Events
  • Biology
  • Ecology
  • Geography


Abstract We investigated the effect of soil microclimate on the structure and functioning of soil microbial communities in a Mediterranean Holm-oak forest subjected to 10 years of partial rain exclusion manipulations, simulating average drought conditions expected in Mediterranean areas for the following decades. We applied a high throughput DNA pyrosequencing technique coupled to parallel measurements of microbial respiration (RH) and temperature sensitivity of microbial respiration (Q10). Some consistent changes in the structure of bacterial communities suggest a slow process of community shifts parallel to the trend towards oligotrophy in response to long-term droughts. However, the structure of bacterial communities was mainly determined by short-term environmental fluctuations associated with sampling date (winter, spring and summer) rather than long-term (10 years) shifts in baseline precipitation. Moreover, long-term drought did not exert any chronic effect on the functioning of soil microbial communities (RH and Q10), emphasizing the functional stability of these communities to this long-term but mild shifts in water availability. We hypothesize that the particular conditions of the Mediterranean climate with strong seasonal shifts in both temperature and soil water availability but also characterized by very extreme environmental conditions during summer, was acting as a strong force in community assembling, selecting phenotypes adapted to the semiarid conditions characterizing Mediterranean ecosystems. Relations of climate with the phylogenetic structure and overall diversity of the communities as well as the distribution of the individual responses of different lineages (genera) to climate confirmed our hypotheses, evidencing communities dominated by thermotolerant and drought-tolerant phenotypes.

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