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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A buried Neolithic paddy soil reveals loss of microbial functional diversity after modern rice cultivation


It has been documented that human activities are causing the rapid loss of taxonomic, phylogenetic, genetic and functional diversity in soils. However, it remains unclear how modern intensive rice cultivation impacts the soil microbiome and its functionality. Here we examined the microbial composition and function differences between a buried Neolithic paddy soil and an adjacent, currently-cultivated paddy soil using high throughput metagenomics technologies. Our results showed that the currently cultivated soil contained about 10-fold more microbial biomass than the buried one. Analyses based on both 16S rRNA genes and functional gene array showed that the currently cultivated soil had significantly higher phylogenetic diversity, but less functional diversity than the buried Neolithic one. The community structures were significantly different between modern and ancient soils, with functional structure shifting towards accelerated organic carbon (C) degradation and nitrogen (N) transformation in the modern soils. This study implies that, modern intensive rice cultivation has substantially altered soil microbial functional structure, leading to functional homogenization and the promotion of soil ecological functions related to the acceleration of nutrient cycling which is necessary for high crop yields.

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