Global climate models project a decrease in the magnitude of precipitation in tropical regions. Changes in rainfall patterns have important implications for the moisture content and redox status of tropical soils, yet little is known about how these changes may affect microbial community structure. Specifically, does exposure to prior stress confer increased resistance to subsequent perturbation? Here we reduced the quantity of precipitation throughfall to tropical forest soils in the Luquillo Mountains, Puerto Rico. Treatments included newly established throughfall exclusion plots (de novo excluded), plots undergoing reduction for a second time (pre-excluded) and ambient control plots. Ten months of throughfall exclusion led to a small but statistically significant decline in soil water potential and bacterial populations clearly adapted to increased osmotic stress. Although the water potential decline was small and microbial biomass did not change, phylogenetic diversity in the de novo-excluded plots decreased by ∼40% compared with the control plots, yet pre-excluded plots showed no significant change. On the other hand, the relative abundances of bacterial taxa in both the de novo-excluded and pre-excluded plots changed significantly with throughfall exclusion compared with control plots. Changes in bacterial community structure could be explained by changes in soil pore water chemistry and suggested changes in soil redox. Soluble iron declined in treatment plots and was correlated with decreased soluble phosphorus concentrations, which may have significant implications for microbial productivity in these P-limited systems.
Bouskill, N. J., H. C. Lim, S. Borglin, R. Salve, T. E. Wood, W. L. Silver, and E. L. Brodie. (2013): Pre-exposure to short-term drought increases the resistance of subtropical forest soil bacterial communities to extended drought. ISME Journal. DOI: 10.1038/ismej.2012.113
This Paper/Book acknowledges NSF CZO grant support.