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Title: Soil Disturbance Affects Plant Productivity via Soil Microbial Community Shifts
Recent advances in climate research have discovered that permafrost is particularly vulnerable to the changes occurring in the atmosphere and climate, especially in Alaska where 85% of the land is underlain by mostly discontinuous permafrost. As permafrost thaws, research has shown that natural and anthropogenic soil disturbance causes microbial communities to undergo shifts in membership composition and biomass, as well as in functional diversity. Boreal forests are home to many plants that are integral to the subsistence diets of many Alaska Native communities. Yet, it is unclear how the observed shifts in soil microbes can affect above ground plant communities that are relied on as a major source of food. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that microbial communities associated with permafrost thaw affect plant productivity by growing five plant species found in Boreal forests and Tundra ecosystems, including low-bush cranberry and bog blueberry, with microbial communities from the active layer soils of a permafrost thaw gradient. We found that plant productivity was significantly affected by the microbial soil inoculants. Plants inoculated with communities from above thawing permafrost showed decreased productivity compared to plants inoculated with microbes from undisturbed soils. We used metagenomic sequencing to determine that microbial communities more » from disturbed soils above thawing permafrost differ in taxonomy from microbial communities in undisturbed soils above intact permafrost. The combination of these results indicates that a decrease in plant productivity can be linked to soil disturbance driven changes in microbial community membership and abundance. These data contribute to an understanding of how microbial communities can be affected by soil disturbance and climate change, and how those community shifts can further influence plant productivity in Boreal forests and more broadly, ecosystem health. « less
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Frontiers in Microbiology
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National Science Foundation
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