, Volume 59, Issue 2, pp 335-343
Date: 25 Aug 2009

Vegetation Affects the Relative Abundances of Dominant Soil Bacterial Taxa and Soil Respiration Rates in an Upland Grassland Soil

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Plant-derived organic matter inputs are thought to be a key driver of soil bacterial community composition and associated soil processes. We sought to investigate the role of acid grassland vegetation on soil bacterial community structure by assessing bacterial diversity in combination with other soil variables in temporally and spatially distinct samples taken from a field-based plant removal experiment. Removal of aboveground vegetation resulted in reproducible differences in soil properties, soil respiration and bacterial diversity. Vegetated soils had significantly increased carbon and nitrogen concentrations and exhibited higher rates of respiration. Molecular analyses revealed that the soils were broadly dominated by Alphaproteobacterial and Acidobacterial lineages, with increased abundances of Alphaproteobacteria in vegetated soils and more Acidobacteria in bare soils. This field-based study contributes to a growing body of evidence documenting the effect of soil nutrient status on the relative abundances of dominant soil bacterial taxa, with Proteobacterial taxa dominating over Acidobacteria in soils exhibiting higher rates of C turnover. Furthermore, we highlight the role of aboveground vegetation in mediating this effect by demonstrating that plant removal can alter the relative abundances of dominant soil taxa with concomitant changes in soil CO2-C efflux.