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Local soil characteristics determine the microbial communities under forest understorey plants along a latitudinal gradient

Ma, Shiyu, De Frenne, Pieter, Vanhellemont, Margot, Wasof, Safaa, Boeckx, Pascal, Brunet, Jörg, Cousins, Sara A.O., Decocq, Guillaume, Kolb, Annette, Lemke, Isa, Liira, Jaan, Naaf, Tobias, Orczewska, Anna, Plue, Jan, Wulf, Monika, Verheyen, Kris
Basic and applied ecology 2019 v.36 pp. 34-44
Geum urbanum, Milium effusum, Poa nemoralis, Stachys, community structure, environmental factors, forests, land use, microbial communities, nitrogen, phospholipid fatty acids, plant communities, rhizosphere, soil microorganisms, soil pH, temperature, understory
The soil microbial community is essential for maintaining ecosystem functioning and is intimately linked with the plant community. Yet, little is known on how soil microbial communities in the root zone vary at continental scales within plant species. Here we assess the effects of soil chemistry, large-scale environmental conditions (i.e. temperature, precipitation and nitrogen deposition) and forest land-use history on the soil microbial communities (measured by phospholipid fatty acids) in the root zone of four plant species (Geum urbanum, Milium effusum, Poa nemoralis and Stachys sylvatica) in forests along a 1700km latitudinal gradient in Europe.Soil microbial communities differed significantly among plant species, and soil chemistry was the main determinant of the microbial community composition within each plant species. Influential soil chemical variables for microbial communities were plant species-specific; soil acidity, however, was often an important factor. Large-scale environmental conditions, together with soil chemistry, only explained the microbial community composition in M. effusum and P. nemoralis. Forest land-use history did not affect the soil microbial community composition.Our results underpin the dominant role of soil chemistry in shaping microbial community composition variation within plant species at the continental scale, and provide insights into the composition and functionality of soil microbial communities in forest ecosystems.