PLoS ONE, 01 January 2015, Vol.10(4), p.e0122539
Soil microbial communities play an important role in forest ecosystem functioning, but how climate change will affect the community composition and consequently bacterial functions is poorly understood. We assessed the effects of reduced precipitation with the aim of simulating realistic future drought conditions for one growing season on the bacterial community and its relation to soil properties and forest management. We manipulated precipitation in beech and conifer forest plots managed at different levels of intensity in three different regions across Germany. The precipitation reduction decreased soil water content across the growing season by between 2 to 8% depending on plot and region. T-RFLP analysis and pyrosequencing of the 16S rRNA gene were used to study the total soil bacterial community and its active members after six months of precipitation reduction. The effect of reduced precipitation on the total bacterial community structure was negligible while significant effects could be observed for the active bacteria. However, the effect was secondary to the stronger influence of specific soil characteristics across the three regions and management selection of overstorey tree species and their respective understorey vegetation. The impact of reduced precipitation differed between the studied plots; however, we could not determine the particular parameters being able to modify the response of the active bacterial community among plots. We conclude that the moderate drought induced by the precipitation manipulation treatment started to affect the active but not the total bacterial community, which points to an adequate resistance of the soil microbial system over one growing season.
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