Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 595–607 | Cite as

Contrasting effects of urban habitat complexity on metabolic functional diversity and composition of litter and soil bacterial communities

  • Alessandro OssolaEmail author
  • Cristina Aponte
  • Amy K. Hahs
  • Stephen J. Livesley


Functional diversity and composition of soil bacterial communities affect important soil biogeochemical processes. In natural and semi-natural ecosystems, variations in habitat complexity have been shown to significantly impact both litter and soil bacterial communities. However, this remains largely untested in urban ecosystems, where human management can lead to habitat complexity combinations unobserved in rural ecosystems. We established 10 research plots in low-complexity park, high-complexity park, and high-complexity remnant habitat types (n = 30) in Melbourne, Australia. The use of organic carbon substrates by soil and litter bacteria was measured using EcoPlates to investigate the effects of habitat complexity upon metabolic functional diversity and functional composition of bacterial communities of i) soil and ii) one-year old litter. Direct and indirect effects of habitat complexity, microclimate and decomposition status upon litter microbial functional diversity and composition were also modelled using path analysis. Soil bacterial communities had significantly higher functional diversity compared to litter bacterial communities, but no significant effect of habitat complexity was apparent. The functional composition of soil bacterial communities was not affected by habitat complexity. In contrast, the functional composition of litter bacterial communities in high complexity parks and remnants was significantly different from that in low-complexity parks. The functional composition of litter bacterial communities, but not their diversity, was directly affected by habitat complexity and microclimate as well as their indirect effects upon the decomposition status of litter. Human management of urban habitat complexity can alter the functional composition of litter and soil bacterial communities without affecting their functional diversity. While this can have significant impacts on bacteria-regulated processes and ecosystem services, it also suggests that urban bacterial communities might be able to adjust to further environmental and climatic changes affecting urban ecosystems.


Evenness Habitat structure Habitat management Time since land-use change Microclimate Understory 



This project was funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC LP 110100686), the Australian Research Centre for Urban Ecology (ARCUE) at the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, and the Australian Golf Course Superintendents’ Association (AGCSA). Authors declare no conflict of interest. AO, CA, AKH and SJL conceived of the study design. AO performed research. AO and CA analysed data. AO wrote the paper with scientific and editorial review by CA, AKH and SJL. AO was supported by MIFRS and MIRS scholarships, the David Lachlan Hay Memorial Fund and an US National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine NRC Associateship. Belinda Lees, Carolyn Selway and Vince Kalangi provided valuable laboratory assistance. Authors are also grateful to the AGSCA Members and the Municipalities of Kingston, Frankston and Greater Dandenong for their collaboration. The editor and reviewers of an earlier version of this manuscript are also acknowledged for their constructive comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Ecosystem and Forest SciencesThe University of MelbourneRichmondAustralia
  2. 2.Australian Research Centre for Urban EcologyRoyal Botanic Gardens VictoriaSouth YarraAustralia
  3. 3.School of BioSciencesThe University of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia

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