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The influence of soil development on the depth distribution and structure of soil microbial communities.

September 27, 2022

Although it has been shown that the interaction of climate and time shape the dynamics of soil organic matter (SOM) storage and preservation in soil, the role of soil microbial communities in this dynamic remains unclear. Microbial communities are present throughout soil profiles and likely play critical roles in SOM and nutrient cycling, however the influence of other factors such as soil development (i.e., age) and the composition SOM on microbial community variation with depth has yet to be quantified. Improving our understanding of the relationship between soil development, soil depth, and microbial communities may provide insight to the critical role they play in cycling and preservation of SOM, as well as more mechanistic predictions of the response of soil communities to change, such as landscape-scale changes in available moisture or temperature regimes. Here we compare soils spanning a soil age by climate gradient (i.e., climo-chronosequence) to better understand the mechanisms which influence soil microbial community structure and the molecular composition of SOM. While we observed little depth-dependence in metrics of microbial community structure (i.e., composition, diversity, dissimilarity) across the range of soil development under a wetter climate, we found significant depth-dependent changes in community metrics under a drier climate, which became more pronounced as soils became older. This shift in bacterial and archaeal community structure and diversity is most apparent below a clay-rich argillic horizon formed in the older, drier soils. The molecular composition of SOM as measured by high resolution mass spectrometry (i.e., FTICR MS) also exhibited similar shifts in composition with soil depth and age. Our results highlight how soil moisture shapes the interaction of soil development, SOM, and microbial community composition. Differences in the moisture regime between our two study sites drives differences in biogeochemical depth gradients and subsequent variation in soil microbes and SOM. This suggests that knowledge of not just the pedogenic trajectory of soil development, but also the spatial position relative to distinct pedogenic features, are important for explaining variations in the depth-dependencies of microbial communities and associated SOM.

Publication Year 2022
Title The influence of soil development on the depth distribution and structure of soil microbial communities.
DOI 10.1016/j.soilbio.2022.108808
Authors Mary-Catherine Leewis, Corey Lawrence, Marjorie S. Schulz, Malak M. Tfaily, Christian Orlando Ayala-Ortiz, Gilberto E. Flores, Rachel Mackelprang, Jack McFarland
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Soil Biology and Biochemistry
Index ID 70236987
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center