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Title: Forest structural diversity is linked to soil microbial diversity

Efforts to catalog global biodiversity have often focused on aboveground taxonomic diversity, with limited consideration of belowground communities. However, diversity aboveground may influence the diversity of belowground communities and vice versa. In addition to taxonomic diversity, the structural diversity of plant communities may be related to the diversity of soil bacterial and fungal communities, which drive important ecosystem processes but are difficult to characterize across broad spatial scales. In forests, canopy structural diversity may influence soil microorganisms through its effects on ecosystem productivity and root architecture, and via associations between canopy structure, stand age, and species richness. Given that structural diversity is one of the few types of diversity that can be readily measured remotely (e.g., using light detection and ranging—LiDAR), establishing links between structural and microbial diversity could facilitate the detection of belowground biodiversity hotspots. We investigated the potential for using remotely sensed information about forest structural diversity as a predictor of soil microbial community richness and composition. We calculated LiDAR‐derived metrics of structural diversity as well as a suite of stand and soil properties from 38 forested plots across the central hardwoods region of Indiana, USA, to test whether forest canopy structure is linked with the community richness and diversity of four key soil microbial groups: bacteria, fungi, arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi, and ectomycorrhizal (EM) fungi. We found that the density of canopy vegetation is positively associated with the taxonomic richness (alpha diversity) of EM fungi, independent of changes in plant taxonomic richness. Further, structural diversity metrics were significantly correlated with the overall community composition of bacteria, EM, and total fungal communities. However, soil properties were the strongest predictors of variation in the taxonomic richness and community composition of microbial communities in comparison with structural diversity and tree species diversity. As remote sensing tools and algorithms are rapidly advancing, these results may have important implications for the use of remote sensing of vegetation structural diversity for management and restoration practices aimed at preserving belowground biodiversity.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
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Publisher / Repository:
Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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