Natural Revegetation of a Semiarid Habitat Alters Taxonomic and Functional Diversity of Soil Microbial Communities
Yanqing Guo, Xiaotian Chen, Yuanyuan Wu, Lu Zhang, Jimin Cheng, Gehong Wei, Yanbing Lin.
Science of the Total Environment
Abstract: Revegetation of degraded lands has a profound impact on the maintenance and stability of ecosystem processes. However, the impacts of this land use change on functional diversity of soil microbial communities are poorly understood. Here, using 16S rRNA gene amplicon and shotgun metagenomic sequencing, we compared the taxonomic and functional communities of soil microbiome, and analyzed the effects of plant diversity and soil chemical properties, in a chronosequence of restored ex-farmland that had been naturally revegetated to grassland over periods of 5, 15 and 30 years with adjacent farmland, on the Loess Plateau, China. We found that microbial taxonomic diversity was positively correlated with plant diversity and was higher in the revegetated sites. Functional diversity increased significantly in the oldest grassland. Actinobacteria, commonly considered a copiotrophic phylum, was more abundant in the revegetated sites, while Acidobacteria, an oligotrophic phylum, was more abundant in farmland. Furthermore, the structure of taxonomic and functional communities was significantly different between revegetated sites and farmland, and organic matter was the best environmental predictor in determining these microbial communities. Compared with the farmland, revegetation increased the proportion of genes associated with energy metabolism, carbohydrate metabolism and xenobiotics biodegradation and metabolism. Notably, the higher proportion of carbohydrate degradation gene subfamilies in the revegetated sites indicated higher levels of soil nutrient cycling. These results elucidate the significant shifts in belowground microbial taxonomic and functional diversity following vegetation restoration and have implications for ecological restoration programs in arid and semi-arid ecosystems.