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Co-occurrence networks reveal more complexity than community composition in resistance and resilience of microbial communities.


Plant response to drought stress involves fungi and bacteria that live on and in plants and in the rhizosphere, yet the stability of these myco- and micro-biomes remains poorly understood. We investigate the resistance and resilience of fungi and bacteria to drought in an agricultural system using both community composition and microbial associations. Here we show that tests of the fundamental hypotheses that fungi, as compared to bacteria, are (i) more resistant to drought stress but (ii) less resilient when rewetting relieves the stress, found robust support at the level of community composition. Results were more complex using all-correlations and co-occurrence networks. In general, drought disrupts microbial networks based on significant positive correlations among bacteria, among fungi, and between bacteria and fungi. Surprisingly, co-occurrence networks among functional guilds of rhizosphere fungi and leaf bacteria were strengthened by drought, and the same was seen for networks involving arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in the rhizosphere. We also found support for the stress gradient hypothesis because drought increased the relative frequency of positive correlations.

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