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Microb Ecol. 2002 Jul;44(1):49-58. Epub 2002 Apr 30.

The diversity and function of soil microbial communities exposed to different disturbances.

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  • 1Department of General Microbiology, University of Copenhagen, Sølvgade 83 H, DK-1307 Copenhagen K, Denmark.


To improve understanding of the relationship between the diversity and function of the soil ecosystem, we investigated the effect of two different disturbances on soil bacterial communities -- long-term exposure to the heavy metal mercury and transient exposure to the antibiotic tylosin. In the mercury-contaminated soil the diversity (Shannon index) was reduced as assessed from denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) of amplified 16S rDNA sequences from the soil community DNA and from colony morphology typing of the culturable bacterial population. However, analysis of the substrate utilization profiles did not reveal any differences in diversity. In the tylosin-treated soil, DGGE revealed a small difference in the diversity of 16S rDNA compared to the control soil, whereas analysis of the colony morphology typing or substrate utilization results did not reveal any differences in diversity. Soil function was also affected by mercury contamination. The lag time before soil respiration increased following addition of glucose or alfalfa substrate was longer in the mercury-contaminated soil than in the control soil. Moreover, it was markedly prolonged in mercury-contaminated soil subjected to heat treatment prior to substrate addition, thus indicating reduced resistance to a new disturbance in the mercury-contaminated soil as compared to the control soil. Tylosin treatment did not have any significant effect on any of the respiration parameters measured, either with or without prior heat treatment of the soil.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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