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Effects of soil depth and plant–soil interaction on microbial community in temperate grasslands of northern China

Yao, Xiaodong, Zhang, Naili, Zeng, Hui, Wang, Wei
The Science of the total environment 2018 v.630 pp. 96-102
Actinobacteria, aboveground biomass, bacteria, carbon, clay fraction, climatic factors, community structure, fungi, microbial communities, nitrogen, pH, phospholipid fatty acids, phosphorus, phytomass, soil depth, soil microorganisms, soil profiles, soil sampling, soil-plant interactions, steppes, topsoil, China
Although the patterns and drivers of soil microbial community composition are well studied, little is known about the effects of plant–soil interactions and soil depth on soil microbial distribution at a regional scale. We examined 195 soil samples from 13 sites along a climatic transect in the temperate grasslands of northern China to measure the composition of and factors influencing soil microbial communities within a 1-m soil profile. Soil microbial community composition was measured using phospholipid fatty acids (PLFA) analysis. Fungi predominated in topsoil (0–10 cm) and bacteria and actinomycetes in deep soils (40–100 cm), independent of steppe types. This variation was explained by contemporary environmental factors (including above- and below-ground plant biomass, soil physicochemical and climatic factors) >58% in the 0–40 cm of soil depth, but <45% in deep soils. Interestingly, when we considered the interactive effects between plant traits (above ground biomass and root biomass) and soil factors (pH, clay content, and soil total carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous), we observed a significant interaction effect occurring at depths of 10–20 cm soil layer, due to different internal and external factors of the plant–soil system along the soil profile. These results improve understanding of the drivers of soil microbial community composition at regional scales.