Land use change has long-term effects on the structure of soil microbial communities, but the specific community assembly processes underlying these effects have not been identified. To investigate effects of historical land use on microbial community assembly, we sampled soils from several currently forested watersheds representing different historical land management regimes (e.g., undisturbed reference, logged, converted to agriculture). We characterized bacterial and fungal communities using amplicon sequencing and used a null model approach to quantify the relative importance of selection, dispersal, and drift processes on bacterial and fungal community assembly. We found that bacterial communities were structured by both selection and neutral (i.e., dispersal and drift) processes, while fungal communities were structured primarily by neutral processes. For both bacterial and fungal communities, selection was more important in historically disturbed soils compared with adjacent undisturbed sites, while dispersal processes were more important in undisturbed soils. Variation partitioning identified the drivers of selection to be changes in vegetation communities and soil properties (i.e., soil N availability) that occur following forest disturbance. Overall, this study casts new light on the effects of historical land use on soil microbial communities by identifying specific environmental factors that drive changes in community assembly.
Pervasive shifts in forest dynamics in a changing world
Forest dynamics arise from the interplay of environmental drivers and disturbances with the demographic processes of recruitment, growth, and mortality, subsequently driving biomass and species composition. However, forest disturbances and subsequent recovery are shifting with global changes in climate and land use, altering these dynamics. Changes in environmental drivers, land use, and disturbance regimes are forcing forests toward younger, shorter stands. Rising carbon dioxide, acclimation, adaptation, and migration can influence these impacts. Recent developments in Earth system models support increasingly realistic simulations of vegetation dynamics. In parallel, emerging remote sensing datasets promise qualitatively new and more abundant data on the underlying processes and consequences for vegetation structure. When combined, these advances hold promise for improving the scientific understanding of changes in vegetation demographics and disturbances.
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