Land-use change can have significant impacts on soil conditions and microbial communities are likely to respond to these changes. However, such responses are poorly characterized as few studies have examined how specific changes in edaphic characteristics do, or do not, influence the composition of soil bacterial and fungal communities across land-use types. Soil samples were collected from four replicated (n = 3) land-use types (hardwood and pine forests, cultivated and livestock pasture lands) in the southeastern US to assess the effects of land-use change on microbial community structure and distribution. We used quantitative PCR to estimate bacterial–fungal ratios and clone libraries targeting small-subunit rRNA genes to independently characterize the bacterial and fungal communities. Although some soil properties (soil texture and nutrient status) did significantly differ across land-use types, other edaphic factors (e.g., pH) did not vary consistently with land-use. Bacterial–fungal ratios were not significantly different across the land-uses and distinct land-use types did not necessarily harbor distinct soil fungal or bacterial communities. Rather, the composition of bacterial and fungal communities was most strongly correlated with specific soil properties. Soil pH was the best predictor of bacterial community composition across this landscape while fungal community composition was most closely associated with changes in soil nutrient status. Together these results suggest that specific changes in edaphic properties, not necessarily land-use type itself, may best predict shifts in microbial community composition across a given landscape. In addition, our results demonstrate the utility of using sequence-based approaches to concurrently analyze bacterial and fungal communities as such analyses provide detailed phylogenetic information on individual communities and permit the robust assessment of the biogeographical patterns exhibited by soil microbial communities.
Lauber, C.L., Strickland, M.S., Bradford, M.A., Fierer, N. (2008): The influence of soil properties on the structure of bacterial and fungal communities across land-use types. Soil Biology & Biochemistry 40(9): 2407-2415.. DOI: 10.1016/j.soilbio.2008.05.021