Relating belowground microbial composition to the taxonomic, phylogenetic, and functional trait distributions of trees in a tropical forest

Albert Barberán, Krista L. Mcguire, Jeffrey A. Wolf, F. Andrew Jones, Stuart Joseph Wright, Benjamin L. Turner, Adam Essene, Stephen P. Hubbell, Brant C. Faircloth, Noah Fierer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

117 Scopus citations

Abstract

The complexities of the relationships between plant and soil microbial communities remain unresolved. We determined the associations between plant aboveground and belowground (root) distributions and the communities of soil fungi and bacteria found across a diverse tropical forest plot. Soil microbial community composition was correlated with the taxonomic and phylogenetic structure of the aboveground plant assemblages even after controlling for differences in soil characteristics, but these relationships were stronger for fungi than for bacteria. In contrast to expectations, the species composition of roots in our soil core samples was a poor predictor of microbial community composition perhaps due to the patchy, ephemeral, and highly overlapping nature of fine root distributions. Our ability to predict soil microbial composition was not improved by incorporating information on plant functional traits suggesting that the most commonly measured plant traits are not particularly useful for predicting the plot-level variability in belowground microbial communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1397-1405
Number of pages9
JournalEcology letters
Volume18
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2015
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Bacteria
  • Barro Colorado Island
  • Functional traits
  • Fungi
  • Microbial ecology
  • Phylogeny
  • Roots
  • Soil
  • Trees
  • Tropical forest

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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