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Habitat heterogeneity induced by pyrogenic organic matter in wildfire-perturbed soils mediates bacterial community assembly processes.


Although pyrogenic organic matter (PyOM) generated during wildfires plays a critical role in post-fire ecosystem recovery, the specific mechanisms by which PyOM controls soil microbial community assembly after wildfire perturbation remain largely uncharacterized. Herein we characterized the effect of PyOM on soil bacterial communities at two independent wildfire-perturbed forest sites. We observed that α-diversity of bacterial communities was the highest in wildfire-perturbed soils and that bacterial communities gradually changed along a sequence of unburnt soil → burnt soil → PyOM. The microbial communities reconstructed from unburnt soil and PyOM resembled the real bacterial communities in wildfire-perturbed soils in their α-diversity and community structure. Bacterial specialists in PyOM and soils clustered in phylogenetic coherent lineages with intra-lineage pH-niche conservatism and inter-lineage pH-niche divergence. Our results suggest that PyOM mediates bacterial community assembly in wildfire-perturbed soils by a combination of environmental selection and dispersal of phylogenetic coherent specialists with habitat preference in the heterogeneous microhabitats of burnt soils with distinct PyOM patches.

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