Redox-driven shifts in soil microbial community structure in the drawdown zone after construction of the Three Gorges Dam

  • Shuling Wang
  • Sarwee J. Faeflen
  • Alan L. Wright
  • Xia Zhu-Barker
  • Xianjun JiangEmail author
Research Article


Soil redox is a critical environmental factor shaping the microbial community structure and ultimately alters the nutrient cycling. However, the response of soil microbial community structure to prolonged or repeated redox fluctuations is not yet clear. To study the dynamic effects of prolonged redox disturbances to the soil microbial community structure, soil samples experiencing 8, 5 and 0 alternating oxic-anoxic cycles within approximately 6 months each year were collected and the microbial community structure were evaluated using phospholipid fatty acid analysis (PLFA) profiles. Prolonged redox disturbances had significant effects on soil physiochemical properties and soil microbial community structure. The relative abundance of straight chain saturated PLFAs, cyclopropyl, and terminal- and mid-branched chain saturated PLFAs increased due to prolonged redox disturbances, but there was a consistent decrease in linear monounsaturated PLFAs and polyunsaturated PLFAs in the fluctuating zone. Prolonged redox disturbances had a negative impact on the total PLFA content (a proxy for biomass). Both the fluctuating zone (8-cycle and 5-cycle plots) and the never flooded zone (0-cycle plots) were dominated by Gram-positive bacteria and a low content of fungi, actinomycetes and protozoa. The fungi and protozoa abundance decreased significantly with an increase in the occurrence of alternating flooding-dry events, suggesting that the prolonged redox disturbance leads to high stress on the fungi and protozoa populations. Moreover, total organic matter (TOC) and C:N ratio, environmental factors that can be influenced by recurring redox fluctuations, also influenced the microbial community structure.


Water fluctuation zone Redox disturbance Microbial community structure Phospholipid fatty acids (PLFA) Three Gorges Reservoir 



This research was financed by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 41271267, 41301315).


  1. Bååth, E., Anderson, T.H., 2003. Comparison of soil fungal/bacterial ratios in a pH gradient using physiological and PLFA-based techniques. Soil Biology & Biochemistry 35, 955–963.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bai, Q., Gattinger, A., Zelles, L., 2000. Characterization of microbial consortia in paddy rice soil by phospholipid analysis. Microbial Ecology 39, 273–281.Google Scholar
  3. Balasooriya, W.K., Huygens, D., Denef, K., Roobroeck, D., Verhoest, N.E.C., Boeckx, P., 2013. Temporal variation of rhizodeposit-C assimilating microbial communities in a natural wetland. Biology and Fertility of Soils 49, 333–341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bardgett, R.D., Jones, A.C., Jones, D.L., Kemmitt, S.J., Cook, R., Hobbs, P.J., 2001. Soil microbial community patterns related to the history and intensity of grazing in sub-montane ecosystems. Soil Biology & Biochemistry 33, 1653–1664.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Binnerup, S.J., Jensen, K., Revsbech, N.P., Jensen, M.H., Sørensen, J., 1992. Denitrification, dissimilatory reduction of nitrate to ammonium, and nitrification in a bioturbated estuarine sediment as measured with N and microsensor techniques. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 58, 303–313.Google Scholar
  6. Bossio, D.A., Fleck, J.A., Scow, K.M., Fujii, R., 2006. Alteration of soil microbial communities and water quality in restored wetlands. Soil Biology & Biochemistry 38, 1223–1233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bossio, D.A., Scow, K.M., 1998. Impacts of carbon and flooding on soil microbial communities: phospholipid fatty acid profiles and substrate utilization patterns. Microbial Ecology 35, 265–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bossio, D.A., Scow, K.M., Gunapala, N., Graham, K.J., 1998. Determinants of soil microbial communities: effects of agricultural management, season, and soil type on phospholipid fatty acid profiles. Microbial Ecology 36, 1–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bremner, J., 1996. Nitrogen-total. Methods of soil analysis. Part 3, 1085–1121.Google Scholar
  10. Cao, Y., Fu, S., Zou, X., Cao, H., Shao, Y., Zhou, L., 2010. Soil microbial community composition under Eucalyptus plantations of different age in subtropical China. European Journal of Soil Biology 46, 128–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Chang, C., Xie, Z.Q., Xiong, G.M., 2011. The effects of three gorges reservoir water storage on the physical and chemical properties of soil. Ziran Ziyuan Xuebao 26, 1236–1244.Google Scholar
  12. Clegg, C.D., Lovell, R.D., Hobbs, P.J., 2003. The impact of grassland management regime on the community structure of selected bacterial groups in soils. FEMS Microbiology Ecology 43, 263–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Drenovsky, R.E., Vo, D., Graham, K.J., Scow, K.M., 2004. Soil water content and organic carbon availability are major determinants of soil microbial community composition. Microbial Ecology 48, 424–430.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. England, L.S., Lee, H., Trevors, J.T., 1993. Bacterial survival in soil: effect of clays and protozoa. Soil Biology & Biochemistry 25, 525–531.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fernandes, M.F., Saxena, J., Dick, R.P., 2013. Comparison of wholecell fatty acid (MIDI) or phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) extractants as biomarkers to profile soil microbial communities. Microbial Ecology 66, 145–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fenchel, T and Finlay, B.J. 1995. Ecology and Evolution in Anoxic Worlds. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.Google Scholar
  17. Imlay J A, 2002. How oxygen damages microbes: oxygen tolerance and obligate anaerobiosis. Advances in Microbial Physiology 46 (1):111–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fierer, N., Schimel, J.P., 2002. Effects of drying–rewetting frequency on soil carbon and nitrogen transformations. Soil Biology & Biochemistry 34, 777–787.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Findlay, R.H., Dobbs, F.C., 1993. Quantitative description of microbial communities using lipid analysis. Handbook of methods in aquatic microbial ecology 32, 271–284.Google Scholar
  20. Findlay, R.H., Trexler, M.B., Guckert, J., White, D.C., 1990. Laboratory study of disturbance in marine sediments: response of a microbial community. Marine Ecology Progress Series 62, 121–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Frindte, K., Allgaier, M., Grossart, H.P., Eckert, W., 2016. Redox stability regulates community structure of active microbes at the sediment-water interface. Environmental Microbiology Reports 8, 798–804.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Guckert, J.B., Antworth, C.P., Nichols, P.D., White, D.C., 1985. Phospholipid, ester linked fatty acid profiles as reproducible assays for changes in prokaryotic community structure of estuarine sediments. FEMS Microbiology Ecology 31, 147–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Guenet, B., Lenhart, K., Leloup, J., Giusti-Miller, S., Pouteau, V., Mora, P., Nunan, N., Abbadie, L., 2012. The impact of long-term CO2 enrichment and moisture levels on soil microbial community structure and enzyme activities. Geoderma 170, 331–336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Haberer, C.M., Rolle, M., Cirpka, O.A., Grathwohl, P., 2012. Oxygen transfer in a fluctuating capillary fringe. Vadose Zone Journal 11, 811–822.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Heintze, S.G., 1934. The use of the glass electrode in soil reaction and oxidation-reduction potential measurements. Journal of Agricultural Science 24, 28–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Ibekwe, A.M., Kennedy, A.C., 1998. Phospholipid fatty acid profiles and carbon utilization patterns for analysis of microbial community structure under field and green house conditions. FEMS Microbiology Ecology 26, 151–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Langer, U., Rinklebe, J., 2009. Lipid biomarkers for assessment of microbial communities in floodplain soils of the Elbe River (Germany). Wetlands 29, 353–362.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Li, N., Yao, S.H., Qiao, Y.F., Zou, W.X., You, M.Y., Han, X.Z., Zhang, B., 2015. Separation of soil microbial community structure by aggregate size to a large extent under agricultural practices during early pedogenesis of a Mollisol. Applied Soil Ecology 88, 9–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lüdemann, H., Arth, I., Liesack, W., 2000. Spatial changes in the bacterial community structure along a vertical oxygen gradient in flooded paddy soil cores. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 66, 754–762.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Mentzer, J.L., Goodman, R.M., Balser, T.C., 2006. Microbial response over time to hydrologic and fertilization treatments in a simulated wet prairie. Plant and Soil 284, 85–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Moche, M., Gutknecht, J., Schulz, E., Langer, U., Rinklebe, J., 2015. Monthly dynamics of microbial community structure and their controlling factors in three floodplain soils. Soil Biology & Biochemistry 90, 169–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Navarrete, A., Peacock, A., Macnaughton, S.J., Urmeneta, J., Mas-Castellà, J., White, D.C., Guerrero, R., 2000. Physiological status and community composition of microbial mats of the Ebro Delta, Spain, by signature lipid biomarkers. Microbial Ecology 39, 92–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Nelson, D., Sommers, L., 1996. Total carbon, organic carbon and organic matter. In ‘Methods of soil analysis. Part 3. Chemical methods. Soil Science Society of America: Madison, WI, (Ed. D.L. Sparks) pp. 961–1010.Google Scholar
  34. Nikolausza, M., Székely, A., Rusznyák, A., et al, 2008. 2008, Diurnal redox fluctuation and microbial activity in the rhizosphere of wetland plants. European Journal of Soil Biology 44, 324–333.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Or, D., Smets, B.F., Wraith, J.M., Dechesne, A., Friedman, S.P., 2007. Physical constraints affecting bacterial habitats and activity in unsaturated porous media–a review. Advances in Water Resources 30, 1505–1527.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Orwin, K.H., Wardle, D.A., Greenfield, L.G., 2006. Context-dependent changes in the resistance and resilience of soil microbes to an experimental disturbance for three primary plant chronosequences. Oikos 112, 196–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Pett-Ridge, J., Firestone, M.K., 2005. Redox fluctuation structures microbial communities in a wet tropical soil. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 71, 6998–7007.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Picek, T., Šimek, M., Šantrůčková, H., 2000. Microbial responses to fluctuation of soil aeration status and redox conditions. Biology and Fertility of Soils 31, 315–322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Rinklebe, J., Langer, U., 2006. Microbial diversity in three floodplain soils at the Elbe River (Germany). Soil Biology & Biochemistry, 38, 2144–2151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Satpathy, S.N., Rath, A.K., Ramakrishnan, B., Rao, V.R., Adhya, T.K., Sethunathan, N., 1997. Diurnal variation in methane efflux at different growth stages of tropical rice. Plant and Soil 195, 267–271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Shamsi, I.H., 2012. Effects of irrigation patterns and nitrogen fertilization on rice yield and microbial community structure in paddy soil. Pedosphere 22, 661–672.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Shen, Z., Chen, L., Hong, Q., Qiu, J., Xie, H., Liu, R., 2013. Assessment of nitrogen and phosphorus loads and causal factors from different land use and soil types in the Three Gorges Reservoir Area. Science of the Total Environment 454–455, 383–392.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Silver, W.L., Lugo, A.E., Keller, M., 1999. Soil oxygen availability and biogeochemistry along rainfall and topographic gradients in upland wet tropical forest soils. Biogeochemistry 44, 301–328.Google Scholar
  44. Sinclair, J.L., Ghiorse, W.C., 1989. Distribution of aerobic bacteria, protozoa, algae, and fungi in deep subsurface sediments. Geomicrobiology Journal 7, 15–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Song, Y., Deng, S.P., Acosta-Martinez, V., Katsalirou, E., 2008. Characterization of redox-related soil microbial communities along a river floodplain continuum by fatty acid methyl ester (FAME) and 16S rRNA genes. Applied Soil Ecology 40, 499–509.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Sundh, I., Börjesson, G., Tunlid, A., 2000. Methane oxidation and phospholipid fatty acid composition in a podzolic soil profile. Soil Biology & Biochemistry 32, 1025–1028.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Teichert, A., Böttcher, J., Duijnisveld, W.H.M., 2000. Redox measurements as a qualitative indicator of spatial and temporal variability of redox state in a sandy forest soil. Redox. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 95–110.Google Scholar
  48. van Aarle, I.M., Olsson, P.A., 2003. Fungal lipid accumulation and development of mycelial structures by two arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 69, 6762–6767.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Vestal, J.R., White, D.C., 1989. Lipid analysis in microbial ecology: quantitative approaches to the study of microbial communities. Bioscience 39, 535–541.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Wilms, R., Sass, H., Köpke, B., Köster, J., Cypionka, H., Engelen, B., 2006. Specific bacterial, archaeal, and eukaryotic communities in tidal-flat sediments along a vertical profile of several meters. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 72, 2756–2764.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Wu, J.S., He D.Y., 1994. Soil organic matter and its turnover dynamic change. Soilfertility and fertilization for crops in southern China. Beijing: Science & Technology Press (吴金水, 何电源. 土壤有机质 及其周转动力学[J]. 中国南方土壤肥力与栽培植物施肥. 北京: 科学 出版社) 62: 1994.28–62.Google Scholar
  52. Ye, C., Li, S., Zhang, Y., Zhang, Q., 2011. Assessing soil heavy metal pollution in the water-level-fluctuation zone of the Three Gorges Reservoir, China. Journal of Hazardous Materials 191, 366–372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Zhou, Y.J., Qiu, J.X., Wang, J., 2010. Evaluation of ecological environmental vulnerability in the xiaolan area of the three gorges reservoir area. Journal of Ecology 30, 672–673.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Higher Education Press 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shuling Wang
    • 1
  • Sarwee J. Faeflen
    • 1
  • Alan L. Wright
    • 2
  • Xia Zhu-Barker
    • 3
  • Xianjun Jiang
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.College of Resources and EnvironmentSouthwest UniversityChongqingChina
  2. 2.Indian River Research & Education CenterUniversity of FloridaFort PierceUSA
  3. 3.Department of Land, Air and Water ResourcesUniversity of California DavisCAUSA

Personalised recommendations