Structural and functional diversity of soil bacterial and fungal communities following woody plant encroachment in the southern Great Plains Academic Article uri icon


  • In the southern Great Plains (USA), encroachment of grassland ecosystems by Prosopis glandulosa (honey mesquite) is widespread. Mesquite encroachment alters net primary productivity, enhances stores of C and N in plants and soil, and leads to increased levels of soil microbial biomass and activity. While mesquite's impact on the biogeochemistry of the region is well established, it effects on soil microbial diversity and function are unknown. In this study, soils associated with four plant types (C3 perennial grasses, C4 midgrasses, C4 shortgrasses, and mesquite) from a mesquite-encroached mixed grass prairie were surveyed to in an attempt to characterize the structure, diversity, and functional capacity of their soil microbial communities. rRNA gene cloning and sequencing were used in conjunction with the GeoChip functional gene array to evaluate these potential differences. Mesquite soil supported increased bacterial and fungal diversity and harbored a distinct fungal community relative to other plant types. Despite differences in composition and diversity, few significant differences were detected with respect to the potential functional capacity of the soil microbial communities. These results may suggest that a high level of functional redundancy exists within the bacterial portion of the soil communities; however, given the bias of the GeoChip toward bacterial functional genes, potential functional differences among soil fungi could not be addressed. The results of this study illustrate the linkages shared between above- and belowground communities and demonstrate that soil microbial communities, and in particular soil fungi, may be altered by the process of woody plant encroachment. 2010 Elsevier Ltd.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 3

author list (cited authors)

  • Hollister, E. B., Schadt, C. W., Palumbo, A. V., Ansley, R. J., & Boutton, T. W.

citation count

  • 60

complete list of authors

  • Hollister, Emily B||Schadt, Christopher W||Palumbo, Anthony V||Ansley, R James||Boutton, Thomas W

publication date

  • October 2010