How to Disentangle Changes in Microbial Function from Changes in Microbial Community

  • Cruz CristinaEmail author
  • Catarina Gouveia
  • Teresa Dias
  • Ajit Varma
  • Olubukola O. Babalola


Understanding the relations between microbial community structure, local edaphoclimatic conditions, and soil functions is fundamental to the progress of soil ecology. We identified soils with distinct textures and investigated the contribution of soil structure and microbial community to two soil functions performed by two nitrogen (N) cycling microbial functional groups. Part of the soil cores collected were sterilized in order to have the influence of the soil structure; the other part was used to obtain the soil microbial community associated with each of the four soil types studied. Soil textures and microbial communities were combined in all the possible combinations and allowed to rest for 15 days. After that, three dynamic soil characteristics were determined: potential nitrification, potential denitrification, and soil respiratory coefficient. At the same time, the number of copies of nitrification (amoA) and denitrification (nir and noz) functional genes was determined by real-time PCR.

Results showed that nitrification is much more dependent on the microbial community than denitrification, which is much related with soil chemical and physical properties, suggesting that the ability to predict microbial responses to environmental change can improve by understanding the context dependence of microbial structure–function relationships.


Microbial Community Soil Microbial Community Soil Function Denitrification Rate amoA Gene 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Ajit Varma is thankful to DST-FIST for providing Confocal Microscope facility, Nikon A1.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cruz Cristina
    • 1
    Email author
  • Catarina Gouveia
    • 1
  • Teresa Dias
    • 1
  • Ajit Varma
    • 2
  • Olubukola O. Babalola
    • 3
  1. 1.cE3c—Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Environmental ChangesFaculdade de Ciências da Universidade de LisboaLisboaPortugal
  2. 2.Amity Institute of Microbial TechnologyAmity University Uttar PradeshNoidaIndia
  3. 3.Faculty of Agriculture, Science and Technology, Food Security and Safety Niche AreaNorth-West UniversityMmabathoSouth Africa

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