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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Soil microbial beta-diversity is linked with compositional variation in aboveground plant biomass in a semi-arid grassland

  • Author(s): Li, H;
  • Xu, Z;
  • Yan, Q;
  • Yang, S;
  • Van Nostrand, JD;
  • Wang, Z;
  • He, Z;
  • Zhou, J;
  • Jiang, Y;
  • Deng, Y
  • et al.

Background and aims: Exploring biodiversity linkages between aboveground and belowground biota is a core topic in ecology, and can have implications on our understanding of ecosystem process stability. Yet, this topic still remains underexplored. Here, we explored diversity linkages, in terms of both alpha- and beta- diversity, between plant and top soil microbial communities in a semi-arid grassland ecosystem. Methods: Soil microbial community structure was assessed based on both 16S rRNA and functional genes, and plant community composition was evaluated by traditional “species composition” and a newly-defined “biomass composition”, which includes the information on the biomass of each species. Results: The bacterial alpha-diversity, expressed as the richness and Shannon diversity of 16S rRNA genes, was significantly correlated with plant species richness and Shannon diversity, whereas the alpha-diversity of microbial functional genes showed marginal association with total plant biomass. Microbial beta-diversity, evaluated by 16S rRNA genes, showed close relationship with plant beta-diversity estimated by both “species composition” and “biomass composition”, while the microbial beta-diversity based on functional genes was only associated with the compositional variation in aboveground plant biomass. Conclusions: These results showed that the differences in metabolic potential of soil microbial communities, which is closely related with ecosystem functions, can be better predicted by the variation of plant-derived resources returned to soil, than merely by the species composition of the macro-organism communities.

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