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Front Microbiol. 2013 Sep 5;4:265. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2013.00265. eCollection 2013.

Controls on soil microbial community stability under climate change.

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Faculty of Life Sciences, The University of Manchester Manchester, UK.


Soil microbial communities are intricately linked to ecosystem functioning because they play important roles in carbon and nitrogen cycling. Still, we know little about how soil microbial communities will be affected by disturbances expected with climate change. This is a significant gap in understanding, as the stability of microbial communities, defined as a community's ability to resist and recover from disturbances, likely has consequences for ecosystem function. Here, we propose a framework for predicting a community's response to climate change, based on specific functional traits present in the community, the relative dominance of r- and K-strategists, and the soil environment. We hypothesize that the relative abundance of r- and K-strategists will inform about a community's resistance and resilience to climate change associated disturbances. We also propose that other factors specific to soils, such as moisture content and the presence of plants, may enhance a community's resilience. For example, recent evidence suggests microbial grazers, resource availability, and plant roots each impact on microbial community stability. We explore these hypotheses by offering three vignettes of published data that we re-analyzed. Our results show that community measures of the relative abundance of r- and K-strategists, as well as environmental properties like resource availability and the abundance and diversity of higher trophic levels, can contribute to explaining the response of microbial community composition to climate change-related disturbances. However, further investigation and experimental validation is necessary to directly test these hypotheses across a wide range of soil ecosystems.


PLFA; bacteria; disturbance; drought; fungi; pyrosequencing; resilience; resistance

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