|Soil texture affects soil microbial and structural recovery during grassland restoration
|Year of Publication
|Bach, EM, Baer, SG, Meyer, CK, Six, J
|Soil Biology & Biochemistry
|Aggregates, Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Microbial biomass, Phospholipid fatty acids, Soil microbial communities, tallgrass prairie
Many biotic and abiotic factors influence recovery of soil communities following prolonged disturbance. We investigated the role of soil texture in the recovery of soil microbial community structure and changes in microbial stress, as indexed by phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) profiles, using two chronosequences of grasslands restored from 0 to 19 years on silty clay loam and loamy fine sand soils in Nebraska, USA. All restorations were formerly cultivated fields seeded to native warm-season grasses through the USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program. Increases in many PLFA concentrations occurred across the silty clay loam chronosequence including total PLFA biomass, richness, fungi, arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, Gram-positive bacteria, Gram-negative bacteria, and actinomycetes. Ratios of saturated:monounsaturated and iso:anteiso PLFAs decreased across the silty clay loam chronosequence indicating reduction in nutrient stress of the microbial community as grassland established. Multivariate analysis of entire PLFA profiles across the silty clay loam chronosequence showed recovery of microbial community structure on the trajectory toward native prairie. Conversely, no microbial groups exhibited a directional change across the loamy fine sand chronosequence. Changes in soil structure were also only observed across the silty clay loam chronosequence. Aggregate mean weighted diameter (MWD) exhibited an exponential rise to maximum resulting from an exponential rise to maximum in the proportion of large macroaggregates (>2000 μm) and exponential decay in microaggregates (<250 μm and >53 μm) and the silt and clay fraction (<53 μm). Across both chronosequences, MWD was highly correlated with total PLFA biomass and the biomass of many microbial groups. Strong correlations between many PLFA groups and the MWD of aggregates underscore the interdependence between the recovery of soil microbial communities and soil structure that may explain more variation than time for some soils (i.e., loamy fine sand). This study demonstrates that soil microbial responses to grassland restoration are modulated by soil texture with implications for estimating the true capacity of restoration efforts to rehabilitate ecosystem functions.