Contrasting Community Assembly Forces Drive Microbial Structural and Potential Functional Responses to Precipitation in an Incipient Soil System

Aditi Sengupta, Till H.M. Volkmann, Robert E. Danczak, James C. Stegen, Katerina Dontsova, Nate Abramson, Aaron S. Bugaj, Michael J. Volk, Katarena A. Matos, Antonio A. Meira-Neto, Albert Barberán, Julia W. Neilson, Raina M. Maier, Jon Chorover, Peter A. Troch, Laura K. Meredith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Microbial communities in incipient soil systems serve as the only biotic force shaping landscape evolution. However, the underlying ecological forces shaping microbial community structure and function are inadequately understood. We used amplicon sequencing to determine microbial taxonomic assembly and metagenome sequencing to evaluate microbial functional assembly in incipient basaltic soil subjected to precipitation. Community composition was stratified with soil depth in the pre-precipitation samples, with surficial communities maintaining their distinct structure and diversity after precipitation, while the deeper soil samples appeared to become more uniform. The structural community assembly remained deterministic in pre- and post-precipitation periods, with homogenous selection being dominant. Metagenome analysis revealed that carbon and nitrogen functional potential was assembled stochastically. Sub-populations putatively involved in the nitrogen cycle and carbon fixation experienced counteracting assembly pressures at the deepest depths, suggesting the communities may functionally assemble to respond to short-term environmental fluctuations and impact the landscape-scale response to perturbations. We propose that contrasting assembly forces impact microbial structure and potential function in an incipient landscape; in situ landscape characteristics (here homogenous parent material) drive community structure assembly, while short-term environmental fluctuations (here precipitation) shape environmental variations that are random in the soil depth profile and drive stochastic sub-population functional dynamics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number754698
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
StatePublished - Nov 23 2021


  • 16S amplicon sequencing
  • community assembly
  • incipient soil
  • landscape evolution
  • metagenome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)


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