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Microbial community structure and functions differ between native and novel (exotic-dominated) grassland ecosystems in an 8-year experiment.

Checinska Sielaff, A., Upton, R. N., Hofmockel, K. S., Xu, X., Polley, H. W., & Wilsey, B. J. . 2018.


Aims Grasslands dominated by non-native (exotic) species have replaced purely native-dominated areas in many parts of the world forming 'novel' ecosystems. Altered precipitation patterns are predicted to exacerbate this trend. It is still poorly understood how soil microbial communities and their functions differ between high diversity native- and low diversity exotic-dominated sites and how altered precipitation will impact this difference. Methods We sampled 64 experimental grassland plots in central Texas with plant species mixtures of either all native or all exotic species; half with summer irrigation. We tested how native vs. exotic plant species mixtures and summer irrigation affected bacterial and fungal community composition and structure, the influence of niche vs. neutral processes for microbial phylotype co- occurrence (C-score analysis), and rates of phosphorus and nitrogen mineralization across an 8-year experiment. Results Native and exotic-dominated plots had significantly different fungal community composition and structure, but not diversity, throughout the length of the study, while changes in bacterial communities were limited to certain wet and cool years. Nitrogen and phosphorus mineralization rates were higher under native plant mixtures and correlated with the the abundance of particular fungal species. Microbial communities were more structured in exotic than native grassland plots, especially for the fungal community. Conclusions The results indicate that conversion of native to exotic C4 dominated grasslands will more strongly impact fungal than bacterial community structure. Further- more, these impacts can alter ecosystem functioning be- low ground via changes in nitrogen and phosphorus cycling.

Key Words

Grasslands .Exotic plants . Fungi .Bacteria . Microbial diversity. Mineralization . Neutral/niche processes