Soil bacteria and fungi respond differently to plant diversity and plant family composition during the secondary succession of abandoned farmland on the Loess Plateau, China

  • Zekun Zhong
  • Xinyi Zhang
  • Xing Wang
  • Shuyue Fu
  • Shaojun Wu
  • Xuqiao Lu
  • Chengjie RenEmail author
  • Xinhui Han
  • Gaihe Yang
Regular Article



This study aimed to determine the responses of soil bacteria and fungi to plant species diversity and plant family composition (PFC) following secondary succession on former farmland (FL).


Illumina sequencing of 16S rRNA and ITS genes was used to determine soil microbial communities along a chronosequence of FL left abandoned for 0, 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50 years on the Loess Plateau. Soil properties, plant diversity, and PFC were also investigated.


Fungal communities were dominated by Ascomycota and Basidiomycota. Fungal diversity and Ascomycota abundance increased with time, while Basidiomycota abundance decreased. The fungal diversity and dominant phyla were related to the increasing levels of plant species diversity and evenness with succession. Bacterial diversity first increased and then decreased as succession proceeded, peaking at 30 years. Bacterial communities transitioned from Actinobacteria to Proteobacteria dominance during the first 30 years, after which Actinobacteria was dominant. Plant family composition exerted indirect effects on the diversity and dominant phyla of bacterial communities, mainly through direct effects on soil organic carbon and total nitrogen content. Bacterial diversity and Proteobacteria abundance were higher at Leguminosae- and Gramineae-dominant succession stages, but lower in Compositae-dominant plots; Actinobacteria showed the opposite result.


Plant species diversity and evenness might be the key drivers for shaping fungal communities, but bacteria are influenced more by changes in PFC and abiotic soil nutrient levels during succession.


Soil bacteria and fungi Plant-microbial diversity Plant families Secondary succession Soil nutrients 



Abandoned land










Microbial biomass carbon


Microbial biomass nitrogen


Microbial biomass phosphorus


Non-metric multidimensional scaling


Plant family composition


Partial least squares path models


Soil organic carbon


Total nitrogen


Total phosphorus.



The authors greatly appreciate the assistance of Yadong Xu and Tao Wang (Northwest A & F University, China) in conducting experiments. This work were financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 41907031), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 41877543), and the Postdoctoral Research Foundation of China (No. 2019 M650276). The authors are also grateful to anonymous reviewers whose comments and suggestion helped us to enhance the quality of this paper.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no competing financial interest.

Supplementary material

11104_2019_4415_MOESM1_ESM.docx (227 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 226 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zekun Zhong
    • 1
    • 2
  • Xinyi Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Xing Wang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Shuyue Fu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Shaojun Wu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Xuqiao Lu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Chengjie Ren
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Xinhui Han
    • 1
    • 2
  • Gaihe Yang
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.College of AgronomyNorthwest A&F UniversityYanglingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.The Research Center of Recycle Agricultural Engineering and Technology of Shaanxi ProvinceYanglingPeople’s Republic of China

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