Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/soil-2021-29
https://doi.org/10.5194/soil-2021-29

  15 Apr 2021

15 Apr 2021

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

The role of ecosystem engineers in shaping the diversity and function of arid soil bacterial communities

Capucine Baubin1, Arielle M. Farrell2, Adam Šťovíček3, Lusine Ghazaryan1, Itamar Giladi2, and Osnat Gillor1 Capucine Baubin et al.
  • 1Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research, Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel
  • 2The Mitrani Department of Desert Ecology, Swiss Institute for Dryland Environmental and Energy Research, Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel
  • 3Department of Microbiology, Nutrition and Dietetics, Czech University of Life Sciences Prague, Kamycka 129, Prague 6, 16500, Czech Republic

Abstract. Ecosystem engineers (EEs) are present in every environment and are known to strongly influence ecological processes and thus shape the distribution of species and resources. In this study, we assessed the direct and indirect effect of two EEs (perennial shrubs and ant nests), individually and combined, on the composition and function of arid soil bacterial communities. To that end, topsoil samples were collected in the Negev Desert Highlands during the dry season from four patch types: (1) barren soil; (2) under shrubs; (3) near ant nests; or (4) near ant nests situated under shrubs. The bacterial community composition and potential functionality were evaluated in the soil samples (fourteen replicates per patch type) using 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing, together with physico-chemical measures of the soil. We have found that the EEs differently affected the community composition. Barren patches supported a soil microbiome, dominated by Rubrobacter and Proteobacteria, while in EE patches Deinococcus-Thermus dominated. The presence of the EEs similarly enhanced the abundance of phototrophic, nitrogen cycle and stress- related genes. In addition, the soil characteristics were altered only when both EEs were combined. Our results suggest that arid landscapes foster unique bacterial communities selected by patches created by each EE(s), solo or in combination. Although, the communities’ composition differs, they support similar potential functions that may have a role in surviving harsh arid conditions. The combined effect of the EEs on soil microbial communities is a good example of hard to predict non-additive features of arid ecosystems that, therefore, merit further research.

Capucine Baubin et al.

Status: open (until 13 Jun 2021)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on soil-2021-29', Anonymous Referee #1, 19 Apr 2021 reply

Capucine Baubin et al.

Capucine Baubin et al.

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Short summary
In this manuscript, we describe changes in desert soil bacterial diversity and function when two ecosystem engineers, shrubs and ant nests, in an arid environment are present. The results show that bacterial activity increases when there are ecosystem engineers and that their impact is non-additive. This is one of a handful of studies that investigated the separate and combined effects of ecosystem engineers on soil bacterial communities investigating both composition and function.