To investigate the potential role of microbial community composition in soil carbon and nitrogen cycling, we transplanted soil cores between a grassland and a conifer ecosystem in the Sierra Nevada California and measured soil process rates (N-mineralization, nitrous oxide and carbondioxide flux, nitrification potential), soil water and temperature, and microbial community parameters (PLFA and substrate utilization profiles) over a 2 year period. Our goal was to assess whether microbial community composition could be related to soil process rates independent of soil temperature and water content. We performed multiple regression analyses using microbial community parameters and soil water and temperature as X-variables and soil process rates and inorganic N concentrations as Y-variables. We found that field soil temperature had the strongest relationship with CO2 production and soil NH4+ concentration, while microbial community characteristics correlated with N2O production, nitrification potential, gross N-mineralization, and soil NO3− concentration, independent of environmentalcontrollers. We observed a relationship between specific components of the microbial community (as determined by PLFA) and soil processes,particularly processes tightly linked to microbial phylogeny (e.g. nitrification). The most apparent change in microbial community composition in response to the 2 year transplant was a change in relative abundance of fungi (there was only one significant change in PLFA biomarkers for bacteria during 2 years). The relationship between microbial community composition and soil processes suggests that prediction of ecosystem response to environmental change may be improved by recognizing and accounting for changes in microbial community composition and physiological ecology.
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Balser, T., Firestone, M. Linking microbial community composition and soil processes in a California annual grassland and mixed-conifer forest. Biogeochemistry 73, 395–415 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10533-004-0372-y