Moisture Is More Important than Temperature for Assembly of Both Potentially Active and Whole Prokaryotic Communities in Subtropical Grassland


Moisture and temperature play important roles in the assembly and functioning of prokaryotic communities in soil. However, how moisture and temperature regulate the function of niche- versus neutral-based processes during the assembly of these communities has not been examined considering both the total microbial community and the sole active portion with potential for growth in native subtropical grassland. We set up a well-controlled microcosm-based experiment to investigate the individual and combined effects of moisture and temperature on soil prokaryotic communities by simulating subtropical seasons in grassland. The prokaryotic populations with potential for growth and the total prokaryotic community were assessed by 16S rRNA transcript and 16S rRNA gene analyses, respectively. Moisture was the major factor influencing community diversity and structure, with a considerable effect of this factor on the total community. The prokaryotic populations with potential for growth and the total communities were influenced by the same assembly rules, with the niche-based mechanism being more influential in communities under dry condition. Our results provide new information regarding moisture and temperature in microbial communities of soil and elucidate how coexisting prokaryotic populations, under different physiological statuses, are shaped in native subtropical grassland soil.

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Data Accessibility

All raw sequences were deposited in the Sequence Read Archive (SRA) under the study accession number PRJEB10903 (


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The authors acknowledge M. Dresher for the assistance in the setup of the microcosm experiment, P. Gubiani for soil physical discussions and assistance in the field to measure moisture and temperature over the year, and Z.I. Antoniolli for laboratory structure.


This study was funded by CNPq (Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico) and FAPERGS/CAPES (Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Rio Grande do Sul/Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior), which also granted the scholarship to the first author. Publication number 6049 of the Netherlands Institute of Ecology, NIOO-KNAW.

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M.L., L. R., and R.J. designed the study. M.L. together with A.S. collected the samples. M.L. and L.R. conducted the laboratory work. L.R., V.S.P., and L.N.L. performed the bioinformatic analysis of the sequence data. L.R., M.L., H.V., V.S.P., and E.K. wrote the manuscript with contributions of all authors. All authors have revised and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Luiz F. W. Roesch.

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Fig S1

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Supplementary Table S1

Sample ID, treatment, total number of sequences and Good’s coverage using DNA- and RNA-based approach. (DOCX 100 kb)

Supplementary Table S2

Differential abundance analysis of soil microbial OTUs under a moisture gradient. (XLSX 139 kb)

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Lupatini, M., Suleiman, A.K.A., Jacques, R.J.S. et al. Moisture Is More Important than Temperature for Assembly of Both Potentially Active and Whole Prokaryotic Communities in Subtropical Grassland. Microb Ecol 77, 460–470 (2019).

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  • 16S rRNA gene
  • 16S rRNA transcript
  • Seasonality
  • Assembly process
  • Microbial ecology