Evans, S. E., L. Bell-Dereske, K. Dougherty, and H. Kittredge. 2019. Dispersal alters soil microbial community response to drought. Environmental Microbiology 22:905-916.
Microbial communities will experience novel climates in the future. Dispersal is now recognized as a driver of microbial diversity and function, but our understanding of how dispersal influences responses to novel climates is limited. We experimentally tested how the exclusion of aerially dispersed fungi and bacteria altered the compositional and functional response of soil microbial communities to drought. We manipulated dispersal and drought by collecting aerially deposited microbes after precipitation events and subjecting soil mesocosms to either filter‐sterilized rain (no dispersal) or unfiltered rain (dispersal) and to either drought (25% ambient) or ambient rainfall for 6 months. We characterized community composition by sequencing 16S and ITS rRNA regions and function using community‐level physiological profiles. Treatments without dispersal had lower soil microbial biomass and metabolic diversity but higher bacterial and fungal species richness. Dispersal also altered soil community response to drought; drought had a stronger effect on bacterial (but not fungal) community composition, and induced greater functional loss, when dispersal was present. Surprisingly, neither immigrants nor drought‐tolerant taxa had higher abundance in dispersal treatments. We show experimentally that natural aerial dispersal rate alters soil microbial responses to disturbance. Changes in dispersal rates should be considered when predicting microbial responses to climate change.
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