Altered precipitation seasonality impacts the dominant fungal but rare bacterial taxa in subtropical forest soils
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How soil microbial communities respond to precipitation seasonality change remains poorly understood, particularly for warm-humid forest ecosystems experiencing clear dry-wet cycles. We conducted a field precipitation manipulation experiment in a subtropical forest to explore the impacts of reducing dry-season rainfall but increasing wet-season rainfall on soil microbial community composition and enzyme activities. A 67% reduction of throughfall during the dry season decreased soil water content (SWC) by 17–24% (P < 0.05), while the addition of water during the wet season had limited impacts on SWC. The seasonal precipitation redistribution had no significant effect on the microbial biomass and enzyme activities, as well as on the community composition measured with phospholipid fatty acids (PLFAs). However, the amplicon sequencing revealed differentiated impacts on bacterial and fungal communities. The dry-season throughfall reduction increased the relative abundance of rare bacterial phyla (Gemmatimonadetes, Armatimonadetes, and Baoacteriodetes) that together accounted for only 1.5% of the total bacterial abundance by 15.8, 40, and 24% (P < 0.05), respectively. This treatment also altered the relative abundance of the two dominant fungal phyla (Basidiomycota and Ascomycota) that together accounted for 72.4% of the total fungal abundance. It increased the relative abundance of Basidiomycota by 27.4% while reduced that of Ascomycota by 32.6% (P < 0.05). Our results indicate that changes in precipitation seasonality can affect soil microbial community composition at lower taxon levels. The lack of community-level responses may be ascribed to the compositional adjustment among taxonomic groups and the confounding effects of other soil physicochemical variables such as temperature and substrate availability.