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Successional trajectories of soil bacterial communities in mine tailings: The role of plant functional traits

Colin, Yannick, Goberna, Marta, Verdú, Miguel, Navarro-Cano, Jose A.
Journal of environmental management 2019 v.241 pp. 284-292
autotrophs, bacterial communities, grasses, heavy metals, heterotrophs, land degradation, leaves, longevity, mine tailings, mining, perennials, primary succession, seedlings, shrubs, soil bacteria, soil fertility, trees
Plant species identity is assumed to be a major driver of belowground microbial diversity and composition. However, diagnosing which plant functional traits are responsible for shaping microbial communities remains elusive. Primary succession on barren metalliferous mining substrates was selected as the framework to study above-belowground interactions, and plant functional traits that lead the successional trajectories of soil bacterial communities were identified. The impact of the plant functional group (i.e. trees, shrubs, dwarf shrubs, perennial grasses), a trait integrating the life span and morphological structure, on the bacterial primary succession was monitored. Bacterial diversity and composition was estimated along plant size gradients including over 90 scattered patches ranging from seedlings to mature multispecific patches. Soil bacterial diversity was affected by heavy metals levels and increased towards higher resource availability underneath mature patches, with stress-tolerant heterotrophs and phototrophs being replaced by competitive heterotrophs. The plant functional group modulated these general patterns and shrubs had the greatest impact belowground by inducing the largest increase in soil fertility. Functional traits related to leaf decomposability and root architecture further determined the composition and structure of bacterial communities. These results underline the importance of plant functional traits in the assembly of soil bacterial communities, and can help guiding restoration of degraded lands.