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Changing precipitation pattern alters soil microbial community response to wet-up under a Mediterranean-type climate.


A large soil CO2 pulse is associated with rewetting soils after the dry summer period under a Mediterranean-type climate, significantly contributing to grasslands' annual carbon budget. Rapid reactivation of soil heterotrophs and a pulse of available carbon are both required to fuel the CO2 pulse. Understanding of the effects of altered summer precipitation on the metabolic state of indigenous microorganisms may be important in predicting changes in carbon cycling. Here, we investigated the effects of extending winter rainfall into the normally dry summer period on soil microbial response to a controlled rewetting event, by following the present (DNA-based) and potentially active (rRNA-based) soil bacterial and fungal communities in intact soil cores (from a California annual grassland) previously subjected to three different precipitation patterns over 4 months (full summer dry season, extended wet season and absent dry season). Phylogenetic marker genes for bacteria and fungi were sequenced before and after rewetting, and the abundance of these genes and transcripts was measured. After having experienced markedly different antecedent water conditions, the potentially active bacterial communities showed a consistent wet-up response. We found a significant positive relation between the extent of change in the structure of the potentially active bacterial community and the magnitude of the CO2 pulse upon rewetting dry soils. We suggest that the duration of severe dry summer conditions characteristic of the Mediterranean climate is important in conditioning the response potential of the soil microbial community to wet-up as well as in framing the magnitude of the associated CO2 pulse.

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