Temporal dynamics of hot desert microbial communities reveal structural and functional responses to water input

Alacia Armstrong, Angel Valverde, Jean-Baptiste Ramond, Thulani P Makhalanyane, Janet K Jansson, David W Hopkins, Thomas J Aspray, Mary Seely, Marla I Trindade, Don A Cowan

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The temporal dynamics of desert soil microbial communities are poorly understood. Given the implications for ecosystem functioning under a global change scenario, a better understanding of desert microbial community stability is crucial. Here, we sampled soils in the central Namib Desert on sixteen different occasions over a one-year period. Using Illumina-based amplicon sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene, we found that α-diversity (richness) was more variable at a given sampling date (spatial variability) than over the course of one year (temporal variability). Community composition remained essentially unchanged across the first 10 months, indicating that spatial sampling might be more important than temporal sampling when assessing β-diversity patterns in desert soils. However, a major shift in microbial community composition was found following a single precipitation event. This shift in composition was associated with a rapid increase in CO2 respiration and productivity, supporting the view that desert soil microbial communities respond rapidly to re-wetting and that this response may be the result of both taxon-specific selection and changes in the availability or accessibility of organic substrates. Recovery to quasi pre-disturbance community composition was achieved within one month after rainfall.

Original languageEnglish
Article number34434
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPrint publication - 29 Sept 2016
Externally publishedYes


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