Medium-term fertilization of grassland plant communities masks plant species-linked effects on soil microbial community structure
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According to the singular hypothesis of plant diversity, different plant species are expected to make unique contributions to ecosystem functioning. Hence, individual species would support distinct microbial communities. It was hypothesized that microbial community dynamics in the respective rhizospheres of, two floristically divergent species, Agrostis capillaris and Prunella vulgaris that were dominant in a temperate, upland grassland in northern Greece, would support distinct microbial communities, in agreement to the singular hypothesis. Phospholipid lipid fatty acid (PLFA) profiles of the rhizosphere soil microbial community were obtained from the grassland which had been subjected to factorial nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) fertilization over five plant growth seasons. The soil cores analyzed were centered on stands of the two co-occurring target plant species, sampled from five blocks in all four factorial N and P fertilization combinations. Distinct PLFA clustering patterns following principle component analysis of PLFA concentrations revealed that, in the absence of P fertilization, soils under the two plant species supported divergent microbial communities. In the P fertilized plots, however, no such distinction could be observed. Results reveal that nutrient fertilization may mask the ability of plant species to shape their own rhizosphere microbial community.
KeywordsAboveground-belowground interactions Phospholipid lipid fatty acid Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi Singular hypothesis Temperate upland grassland
The authors acknowledge the contribution of Dr Liz Shaw, Dr George Menexes and three anonymous reviewers for invaluable comments on the manuscript. They would, also, like to thank Mr Kostas Athanasiadis, Mr Panagiotis Skenteridis, Mrs Gillian Martin and Mrs Maureen Procee for technical support. The project was partially funded through a PhD scholarship to S.D. Veresoglou by the Chloros Trust.
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