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  1. 1. Climate change is projected to cause shifts in precipitation regimes globally, leading to intensified periods of precipitation and droughts. Most studies that have explored the influence of changing precipitation regimes on ecosystems have focused on changes in mean annual precipitation, rather than the variance around the mean. Soil fungi are ubiquitous organisms that drive ecosystem processes, but it is unknown how they respond to long-term increased interannual precipitation variability. 2. Here, we investigated the influence of long-term increased precipitation variability and host type on soil fungal diversity and community composition in a dryland ecosystem. We collected 300 soil samples from two time points and different host type substrate types at a long-term precipitation variability experiment at the Jornada Long Term Ecological Research site. Next, we used amplicon sequencing to characterize soil fungal communities. 3. Soil fungal alpha diversity and community composition were strongly affected by host type and sampling year, and increased precipitation variability caused a modest, statistically insignificant, decrease in soil fungal evenness. Furthermore, results from our structural equational model showed that the decrease in grass-associated soil fungal richness was likely an indirect result of host decline in response to increased precipitation variability. 4. Synthesis. Our work demonstratesmore »effects of increase in interannual precipitation variability on soil fungi, and that plant hosts play a key role in mediating soil fungal responses.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 10, 2023
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  3. Carbon allocated underground through belowground net primary production represents the main input to soil organic carbon. This is of significant importance, because soil organic carbon is the third-largest carbon stock after oceanic and geological pools. However, drivers and controls of belowground productivity and the fraction of total carbon fixation allocated belowground remain uncertain. Here we estimate global belowground net primary productivity as the difference between satellite-based total net primary productivity and field observations of aboveground net primary production and assess climatic controls among biomes. On average, belowground carbon productivity is estimated as 24.7 Pg y−1, accounting for 46% of total terrestrial carbon fixation. Across biomes, belowground productivity increases with mean annual precipitation, although the rate of increase diminishes with increasing precipitation. The fraction of total net productivity allocated belowground exceeds 50% in a large fraction of terrestrial ecosystems and decreases from arid to humid ecosystems. This work adds to our understanding of the belowground carbon productivity response to climate change and provides a comprehensive global quantification of root/belowground productivity that will aid the budgeting and modeling of the global carbon cycle.

  4. Anthropogenic nutrient enrichment is driving global biodiversity decline and modifying ecosystem functions. Theory suggests that plant functional types that fix atmospheric nitrogen have a competitive advantage in nitrogen-poor soils, but lose this advantage with increasing nitrogen supply. By contrast, the addition of phosphorus, potassium, and other nutrients may benefit such species in low-nutrient environments by enhancing their nitrogen-fixing capacity. We present a global-scale experiment confirming these predictions for nitrogen-fixing legumes (Fabaceae) across 45 grasslands on six continents. Nitrogen addition reduced legume cover, richness, and biomass, particularly in nitrogen-poor soils, while cover of non–nitrogen-fixing plants increased. The addition of phosphorous, potassium, and other nutrients enhanced legume abundance, but did not mitigate the negative effects of nitrogen addition. Increasing nitrogen supply thus has the potential to decrease the diversity and abundance of grassland legumes worldwide regardless of the availability of other nutrients, with consequences for biodiversity, food webs, ecosystem resilience, and genetic improvement of protein-rich agricultural plant species.
  5. Precipitation changes among years and locations along gradients of mean annual precipitation (MAP). The way those changes interact and affect populations of soil organisms from arid to moist environments remains unknown. Temporal and spatial changes in precipitation could lead to shifts in functional composition of soil communities that are involved in key aspects of ecosystem functioning such as ecosystem primary production and carbon cycling. We experimentally reduced and increased growing-season precipitation for 2 y in field plots at arid, semiarid, and mesic grasslands to investigate temporal and spatial precipitation controls on the abundance and community functional composition of soil nematodes, a hyper-abundant and functionally diverse metazoan in terrestrial ecosystems. We found that total nematode abundance decreased with greater growing-season precipitation following increases in the abundance of predaceous nematodes that consumed and limited the abundance of nematodes lower in the trophic structure, including root feeders. The magnitude of these nematode responses to temporal changes in precipitation increased along the spatial gradient of long-term MAP, and significant effects only occurred at the mesic site. Contrary to the temporal pattern, nematode abundance increased with greater long-term MAP along the spatial gradient from arid to mesic grasslands. The projected increase in the frequency ofmore »extreme dry years in mesic grasslands will therefore weaken predation pressure belowground and increase populations of root-feeding nematodes, potentially leading to higher levels of plant infestation and plant damage that would exacerbate the negative effect of drought on ecosystem primary production and C cycling.« less
  6. Abstract

    Free‐living nematodes are one of the most diverse metazoan taxa in terrestrial ecosystems and are critical to the global soil carbon (C) cycling through their role in organic matter decomposition. They are highly dependent on water availability for movement, feeding, and reproduction. Projected changes in precipitation across temporal and spatial scales will affect free‐living nematodes and their contribution to C cycling with unforeseen consequences. We experimentally reduced and increased growing season precipitation for 2 years in 120 field plots at arid, semiarid, and mesic grasslands and assessed precipitation controls on nematode genus diversity, community structure, and C footprint. Increasing annual precipitation reduced nematode diversity and evenness over time at all sites, but the mechanism behind these temporal responses differed for dry and moist grasslands. In arid and semiarid sites, there was a loss of drought‐adapted rare taxa with increasing precipitation, whereas in mesic conditions increases in the population of predaceous taxa with increasing precipitation may have caused the observed reductions in dominant colonizer taxa and yielded the negative precipitation–diversity relationship. The effects of temporal changes in precipitation on all aspects of the nematode C footprint (respiration, production, and biomass C) were all dependent on the site (significant spatial × temporal precipitation interaction)more »and consistent with diversity responses at mesic, but not at arid and semiarid, grasslands. These results suggest that free‐living nematode biodiversity and their C footprint will respond to climate change‐driven shifts in water availability and that more frequent extreme wet years may accelerate decomposition and C turnover in semiarid and arid grasslands.

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