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Microb Ecol. 2000 Jan;39(1):41-48.

Stability in Natural Bacterial Communities: II. Plant Resource Allocation Effects on Rhizosphere Diazotroph Assemblage Composition.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208, USA


Plant rhizospheres are dynamic environments in which microbes compete for resources, particularly plant-derived organic carbon/energy sources. Altering plant productivity changes the availability of carbon/energy resources to rhizosphere microbiota. This limitation is expected to intensify competition for the remaining carbon supply and could cause the loss of poor competitors from the assemblage. We clipped or shaded plots of the salt marsh cord grass, Spartina alterniflora, to shift plant carbon resource allocation from the rhizosphere to the aboveground shoots. We then examined key porewater parameters (pH, salinity, H(2)S, NH(+)(4)), diazotrophic activity (by acetylene reduction assay), and diazotroph assemblage composition after 2 weeks or 8 weeks of treatment. The diazotroph assemblage composition was monitored via the polymerase chain reaction using nifH specific primers followed by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) analysis. Porewater parameters and acetylene reduction rates did not differ significantly among treatments. The DGGE profiles also were very similar across the control and experimental treatments, indicating that no detectable diazotroph species were displaced from the assemblage. This implies that rhizosphere diazotrophs are able to compete successfully against nondiazotrophs, in spite of the high energy requirements of nitrogen fixation. These results show that the species composition of the diazotroph assemblage in the S. alterniflora rhizosphere is stable in the face of short-duration but potentially high-impact variations in carbon resource availability. </hea.


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