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Relationship between plant species diversity and soil microbial functional diversity along a longitudinal gradient in temperate grasslands of Hulunbeir, Inner Mongolia, China


Numerous experiments have been established to examine the effect of plant diversity on the soil microbial community. However, the relationship between plant diversity and microbial functional diversity along broad spatial gradients at a large scale is still unexplored. In this paper, we examined the relationship of plant species diversity with soil microbial biomass C, microbial catabolic activity, catabolic diversity and catabolic richness along a longitudinal gradient in temperate grasslands of Hulunbeir, Inner Mongolia, China. Preliminary detrended correspondence analysis (DCA) indicated that plant composition showed a significant separation along the axis 1, and axis 1 explained the main portion of variability in the data set. Moreover, DCA-axis 1 was significantly correlated with soil microbial biomass C (r = 0.735, P = 0.001), microbial catabolic activity (average well color development; r = 0.775, P < 0.001) and microbial functional diversity (catabolic diversity: r = 0.791, P < 0.001 and catabolic richness: r = 0.812, P < 0.001), which suggested thatsome relationship existed between plant composition and the soil microbial community along the spatial gradient at a large scale. Soil microbial biomass C, microbial catabolic activity, catabolic diversity and catabolic richness showed a significant, linear increase with greater plant species richness. However, many responses that we observed could be explained by greater aboveground plant biomass associated with higher levels of plant diversity, which suggested that plant diversity impacted the soil microbial community mainly through increases in plant production.

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We thank Benjamin Knapp (US Forest Service, Southern Research Station, Clemson University) and Huifeng Hu (Clemson University) for their valuable suggestions for improving the manuscript. This project was supported by the Innovation Research Group supported by the National Sciences Foundation of China (no. 40621061) and the National Key Basic Research Development Foundation of China (no. 2002CB412503).

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Correspondence to Bojie Fu.

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Liu, Z., Liu, G., Fu, B. et al. Relationship between plant species diversity and soil microbial functional diversity along a longitudinal gradient in temperate grasslands of Hulunbeir, Inner Mongolia, China. Ecol Res 23, 511–518 (2008).

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  • Longitudinal gradient
  • Catabolic activity
  • Catabolic diversity
  • Plant species diversity
  • Soil microbial biomass C
  • Temperate grassland