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Vol. 114, No. (
1-3), 2013; Page: 201 - 212

Soil microbial diversity affects soil organic matter decomposition in a silty grassland soil

Karen Baumann, Marie-France Dignac, Cornelia Rumpel, Gérard Bardoux, Amadou Sarr, Markus Steffens, Pierre-Alain Maron

Laboratoire de Biogéochimie et Ecologie des Milieux Continentaux (BioEMCo), CNRS-INRA-AgroParisTech UPMC-UPEC-IRD, 78850, Thiverval-Grignon, France.

Soil microorganisms play a pivotal role in soil organic matter (SOM) turn-over and their diversity is discussed as a key to the function of soil ecosystems. However, the extent to which SOM dynamics may be linked to changes in soil microbial diversity remains largely unknown. We characterized SOM degradation along a microbial diversity gradient in a two month incubation experiment under controlled laboratory conditions. A microbial diversity gradient was created by diluting soil suspension of a silty grassland soil. Microcosms containing the same sterilized soil were re-inoculated with one of the created microbial diversities, and were amended with 13C labeled wheat in order to assess whether SOM decomposition is linked to soil microbial diversity or not. Structural composition of wheat was assessed by solid-state 13C nuclear magnetic resonance, sugar and lignin content was quantified and labeled wheat contribution was determined by 13C compound specific analyses. Results showed decreased wheat O-alkyl-C with increasing microbial diversity. Total non-cellulosic sugar-C derived from wheat was not significantly influenced by microbial diversity. Carbon from wheat sugars (arabinose-C and xylose-C), however, was highest when microbial diversity was low, indicating reduced wheat sugar decomposition at low microbial diversity. Xylose-C was significantly correlated with the Shannon diversity index of the bacterial community. Soil lignin-C decreased irrespective of microbial diversity. At low microbial diversity the oxidation state of vanillyl–lignin units was significantly reduced. We conclude that microbial diversity alters bulk chemical structure, the decomposition of plant litter sugars and influences the microbial oxidation of total vanillyl–lignins, thus changing SOM composition.

Keywords: 13C compound specific isotope analysis; Carbon mineralization; Decomposition; Solid-state 13C-NMR; Redundant function; Wheat



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