Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/soil-2021-110
https://doi.org/10.5194/soil-2021-110

  21 Oct 2021

21 Oct 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal SOIL.

Pairing litter decomposition with microbial community structures using the Tea Bag Index (TBI)

Anne Daebeler1,2, Eva Petrová1, Elena Kinz3, Susanne Grausenburger4, Helene Berthold5, Taru Sandén6, Roey Angel1,7, and the High school students of biology project groups I, II, III from 2018–2019 Anne Daebeler et al.
  • 1Soil & Water Research Infrastructure (SoWa), Biology Centre CAS, České Budějovice, Czechia
  • 2University of Vienna, Centre for Microbiology and Environmental Systems Science, Division of Microbial Ecology, Vienna, Austria
  • 3Open Science - Life Sciences in Dialogue, Vienna, Austria
  • 4Federal College for Viticulture and Fruit Growing, Klosterneuburg, Austria
  • 5Institute for Seed and Propagating Material, Phytosanitary Service and Apiculture, Department for Seed Testing, Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES), Vienna, Austria
  • 6Institute for Sustainable Plant Production, Department for Soil Health and Plant Nutrition, Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES), Vienna, Austria
  • 7Institute of Soil Biology, Biology Centre CAS, České Budějovice, Czechia
  • A full list of authors appears at the end of the paper.

Abstract. Including information about soil microbial communities into global decomposition models is critical for predicting and understanding how ecosystem functions may shift in response to global change. Here we combined a standardised litter bag method for estimating decomposition rates, Tea Bag Index (TBI), with high-throughput sequencing of the microbial communities colonising the plant litter in the bags. Together with students of the Federal College for Viticulture and Fruit Growing, Klosterneuburg, Austria, acting as citizen scientists, we used this approach to investigate the diversity of prokaryotes and fungi colonising recalcitrant (rooibos) and labile (green tea) plant litter buried in three different soil types and during four seasons with the aim of (i) comparing litter decomposition [decomposition rates (k) and stabilisation factors (S)] between soil types and seasons, (ii) comparing the microbial communities colonising labile and recalcitrant plant litter between soil types and seasons (iii) correlating microbial diversity and taxa relative abundance patterns of colonisers with litter decomposition rates (k)and stabilisation factors (S). Stabilisation factor (S), but not decomposition rate (k), correlated with the season and was significantly lower in the summer. This finding highlights the necessity to include colder seasons in the efforts of determining decomposition dynamics in order to quantify nutrient cycling in soils accurately. With our approach, we further showed selective colonisation of plant litter by fungal and prokaryotic taxa sourced from the soil. The community structures of these microbial colonisers differed most profoundly between summer and winter, and rooibos litter was generally a stronger selector than green tea litter. Moreover, this study indicates an equal, if not higher, importance of fungal versus prokaryotic degraders for recalcitrant and labile plant litter decomposition. Our results collectively demonstrate the importance of analysing decomposition dynamics over multiple seasons and isolating the effect of the active component of the microbial community.

Anne Daebeler et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on soil-2021-110', Anonymous Referee #1, 29 Nov 2021
  • RC2: 'Comment on soil-2021-110', Thomas Reitz, 01 Dec 2021

Anne Daebeler et al.

Anne Daebeler et al.

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Short summary
In this citizen-science project, we combined a standardised litter bag method (Tea Bag Index) with microbiome analysis of bacteria and fungi colonising the teabags to gain a holistic understanding of the carbon degradation dynamics in temperate European soils. Our method focuses only on the active part of the soil microbiome. The results show that about one-third of the prokaryotes and one-fifth of the fungal species (ASVs) in the soil was enriched in response to the presence of fresh OM.