, Volume 11, Issue 7, pp 1157-1167
Date: 03 Sep 2008

Fungal Taxa Target Different Carbon Sources in Forest Soil

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Soil microbes are among the most abundant and diverse organisms on Earth. Although microbial decomposers, particularly fungi, are important mediators of global carbon and nutrient cycling, the functional roles of specific taxa within natural environments remain unclear. We used a nucleotide-analog technique in soils from the Harvard Forest to characterize the fungal taxa that responded to the addition of five different carbon substrates—glycine, sucrose, cellulose, lignin, and tannin-protein. We show that fungal community structure and richness shift in response to different carbon sources, and we demonstrate that particular fungal taxa target different organic compounds within soil microcosms. Specifically, we identified eleven taxa that exhibited changes in relative abundances across substrate treatments. These results imply that niche partitioning through specialized resource use may be an important mechanism by which soil microbial diversity is maintained in ecosystems. Consequently, high microbial diversity may be necessary to sustain ecosystem processes and stability under global change.