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Does the aboveground herbivore assemblage influence soil bacterial community composition and richness in subalpine grasslands?

Microbial ecology (2014-06-04)
Melanie Hodel, Martin Schütz, Martijn L Vandegehuchte, Beat Frey, Matthias Albrecht, Matt D Busse, Anita C Risch
ABSTRACT

Grassland ecosystems support large communities of aboveground herbivores that are known to directly and indirectly affect belowground properties such as the microbial community composition, richness, or biomass. Even though multiple species of functionally different herbivores coexist in grassland ecosystems, most studies have only considered the impact of a single group, i.e., large ungulates (mostly domestic livestock) on microbial communities. Thus, we investigated how the exclusion of four groups of functionally different herbivores affects bacterial community composition, richness, and biomass in two vegetation types with different grazing histories. We progressively excluded large, medium, and small mammals as well as invertebrate herbivores using exclosures at 18 subalpine grassland sites (9 per vegetation type). We assessed the bacterial community composition using terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) at each site and exclosure type during three consecutive growing seasons (2009-2011) for rhizosphere and mineral soil separately. In addition, we determined microbial biomass carbon (MBC), root biomass, plant carbon:nitrogen ratio, soil temperature, and soil moisture. Even though several of these variables were affected by herbivore exclusion and vegetation type, against our expectations, bacterial community composition, richness, or MBC were not. Yet, bacterial communities strongly differed between the three growing seasons as well as to some extent between our study sites. Thus, our study indicates that the spatiotemporal variability in soil microclimate has much stronger effects on the soil bacterial communities than the grazing regime or the composition of the vegetation in this high-elevation ecosystem.

MATERIALS
Product Number
Brand
Product Description

Sigma-Aldrich
Activated charcoal, suitable for cell culture, suitable for plant cell culture
Sigma-Aldrich
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Supelco
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Carbon - Vitreous, foil, 8mm disks, thickness 1.0mm, glassy carbon
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