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Tree and shrub richness modifies subtropical tree productivity by regulating the diversity and community composition of soil bacteria and archaea.

Microbiome 2023 November 24
BACKGROUND: Declines in plant biodiversity often have negative consequences for plant community productivity, and it becomes increasingly acknowledged that this may be driven by shifts in soil microbial communities. So far, the role of fungal communities in driving tree diversity-productivity relationships has been well assessed in forests. However, the role of bacteria and archaea, which are also highly abundant in forest soils and perform pivotal ecosystem functions, has been less investigated in this context. Here, we investigated how tree and shrub richness affects stand-level tree productivity by regulating bacterial and archaeal community diversity and composition. We used a landscape-scale, subtropical tree biodiversity experiment (BEF-China) where tree (1, 2, or 4 species) and shrub richness (0, 2, 4, 8 species) were modified.

RESULTS: Our findings indicated a noteworthy decline in soil bacterial α-diversity as tree species richness increased from monoculture to 2- and 4- tree species mixtures, but a significant increase in archaeal α-diversity. Additionally, we observed that the impact of shrub species richness on microbial α-diversity was largely dependent on the level of tree species richness. The increase in tree species richness greatly reduced the variability in bacterial community composition and the complexity of co-occurrence network, but this effect was marginal for archaea. Both tree and shrub species richness increased the stand-level tree productivity by regulating the diversity and composition of bacterial community and archaeal diversity, with the effects being mediated via increases in soil C:N ratios.

CONCLUSIONS: Our findings provide insight into the importance of bacterial and archaeal communities in driving the relationship between plant diversity and productivity in subtropical forests and highlight the necessity for a better understanding of prokaryotic communities in forest soils. Video Abstract.

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