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ISME J. 2009 Jan;3(1):124-36. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2008.82. Epub 2008 Sep 4.

Evidence for the functional significance of diazotroph community structure in soil.

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1
Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.

Abstract

Microbial ecologists continue to seek a greater understanding of the factors that govern the ecological significance of microbial community structure. Changes in community structure have been shown to have functional significance for processes that are mediated by a narrow spectrum of organisms, such as nitrification and denitrification, but in some cases, functional redundancy in the community seems to buffer microbial ecosystem processes. The functional significance of microbial community structure is frequently obscured by environmental variation and is hard to detect in short-term experiments. We examine the functional significance of free-living diazotrophs in a replicated long-term tillage experiment in which extraneous variation is minimized and N-fixation rates can be related to soil characteristics and diazotroph community structure. Soil characteristics were found to be primarily impacted by tillage management, whereas N-fixation rates and diazotroph community structure were impacted by both biomass management practices and interactions between tillage and biomass management. The data suggest that the variation in diazotroph community structure has a greater impact on N-fixation rates than do soil characteristics at the site. N-fixation rates displayed a saturating response to increases in diazotroph community diversity. These results show that the changes in the community structure of free-living diazotrophs in soils can have ecological significance and suggest that this response is related to a change in community diversity.

PMID:
18769458
DOI:
10.1038/ismej.2008.82
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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