- Award ID(s):
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Date Published:
- Journal Name:
- Phytobiomes Journal
- Medium: X
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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Microbial activity in drylands is mediated by the magnitude and frequency of growing season rain events that will shift as climate change progresses. Nitrogen is often co-limiting with water availability to dryland plants, and thus we investigated how microbes important to the nitrogen (N) cycle and soil N availability varied temporally and spatially in the context of a long-term rainfall variability experiment in the northern Chihuahuan Desert. Specifically, we assessed biological soil crust (biocrust) chlorophyll content, fungal abundance, and inorganic N in soils adjacent to individuals of the grassland foundation species, Bouteloua eriopoda, and in the unvegetated interspace at multiple time points associated with an experimental monsoon rain treatment. Treatments included small weekly (5 mm) or large monthly (20 mm) rain events, which had been applied during the summer monsoon for nine years prior to our sampling. Additionally, we evaluated target plant C:N ratios and added 15 N-glutamate to biocrusts to determine potential for nutrient transport to B. eriopoda. Biocrust chlorophyll was up to 67% higher in the small weekly or large monthly rainfall regimes compared to ambient controls. Fungal biomass was 57% lower in soil interspaces than adjacent to plants but did not respond to rainfall regime treatments. Ammonium and nitrate concentrations near plants declined through the sampling period but varied little in soil interspaces. There was limited movement of 15 N from interspace biocrusts to leaves but high 15 N retention in the soils even after additional ambient and experimental rain events. Plant C:N ratio was unaffected by rainfall treatments. The long-term alteration in rainfall regime in this experiment did not change how short-term microbial abundance or N availability responded to the magnitude or frequency of events, suggesting a limited response of N availability to future climate change.more » « less
Water and nutrient acquisition are key drivers of plant health and ecosystem function. These factors impact plant physiology directly as well as indirectly through soil‐ and root‐associated microbial responses, but how they in turn affect aboveground plant–microbe interactions are not known.
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