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Bacterial communities differ between plant species and soil type, and differentially influence seedling establishment on serpentine soils

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Background and aim: Root-associated microbial communities influence plant phenotype, growth and local abundance, yet the factors that structure these microbial communities are still poorly understood. California landscapes contain serpentine soils, which are nutrient-poor and high in heavy metals, and distinct from neighboring soils making them ideal for studying the factors that structure root microbiomes and their functions. Method: Here, we surveyed the rhizoplane of serpentine-indifferent plants, which grow on and off serpentine soil, to determine the relative influence of plant identity and soil chemistry on rhizoplane microbial community structure using 16S rRNA metabarcoding. Additionally, we experimentally examined if serpentine vs. non-serpentine microorganisms differentially affected plant growth in serpentine soil. Results: Rhizoplane bacterial communities differed among plant species, soil types, and the interaction between them in both the field and experimental soils. In the experiment, soil microbial community source influenced seedling survival, but plant growth phenotypes were largely invariant to microbial community with a few exceptions. Conclusions: Rhizosplane bacterial species composition differed between plant species and soil types, and Amplicon Sequence Variants (ASVs) from the phyla Acidobacteria and Proteobacteria (Genus: Microvirga) were characteristic of serpentine soils. While soil microbial community composition influenced seedling survival in the current study, further study is required to disentangle the role of microbial associations and plant tolerance to serpentine.

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