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  1. Abstract Background

    Anthropogenic activities have increased the inputs of atmospheric reactive nitrogen (N) into terrestrial ecosystems, affecting soil carbon stability and microbial communities. Previous studies have primarily examined the effects of nitrogen deposition on microbial taxonomy, enzymatic activities, and functional processes. Here, we examined various functional traits of soil microbial communities and how these traits are interrelated in a Mediterranean-type grassland administrated with 14 years of 7 g m−2year−1of N amendment, based on estimated atmospheric N deposition in areas within California, USA, by the end of the twenty-first century.


    Soil microbial communities were significantly altered by N deposition. Consistent with higher aboveground plant biomass and litter, fast-growing bacteria, assessed by abundance-weighted average rRNA operon copy number, were favored in N deposited soils. The relative abundances of genes associated with labile carbon (C) degradation (e.g.,amyAandcda) were also increased. In contrast, the relative abundances of functional genes associated with the degradation of more recalcitrant C (e.g.,mannanaseandchitinase) were either unchanged or decreased. Compared with the ambient control, N deposition significantly reduced network complexity, such as average degree and connectedness. The network for N deposited samples contained only genes associated with C degradation, suggesting that C degradation genes became more intensely connected under N deposition.

    more »Conclusions

    We propose a conceptual model to summarize the mechanisms of how changes in above- and belowground ecosystems by long-term N deposition collectively lead to more soil C accumulation.

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  2. Networks are vital tools for understanding and modeling interactions in complex systems in science and engineering, and direct and indirect interactions are pervasive in all types of networks. However, quantitatively disentangling direct and indirect relationships in networks remains a formidable task. Here, we present a framework, called iDIRECT (Inference of Direct and Indirect Relationships with Effective Copula-based Transitivity), for quantitatively inferring direct dependencies in association networks. Using copula-based transitivity, iDIRECT eliminates/ameliorates several challenging mathematical problems, including ill-conditioning, self-looping, and interaction strength overflow. With simulation data as benchmark examples, iDIRECT showed high prediction accuracies. Application of iDIRECT to reconstruct gene regulatory networks in Escherichia coli also revealed considerably higher prediction power than the best-performing approaches in the DREAM5 (Dialogue on Reverse Engineering Assessment and Methods project, #5) Network Inference Challenge. In addition, applying iDIRECT to highly diverse grassland soil microbial communities in response to climate warming showed that the iDIRECT-processed networks were significantly different from the original networks, with considerably fewer nodes, links, and connectivity, but higher relative modularity. Further analysis revealed that the iDIRECT-processed network was more complex under warming than the control and more robust to both random and target species removal ( P < 0.001). As a general approach,more »iDIRECT has great advantages for network inference, and it should be widely applicable to infer direct relationships in association networks across diverse disciplines in science and engineering.« less
  3. Whether and how CO 2 and nitrogen (N) availability interact to influence carbon (C) cycling processes such as soil respiration remains a question of considerable uncertainty in projecting future C–climate feedbacks, which are strongly influenced by multiple global change drivers, including elevated atmospheric CO 2 concentrations (eCO 2 ) and increased N deposition. However, because decades of research on the responses of ecosystems to eCO 2 and N enrichment have been done largely independently, their interactive effects on soil respiratory CO 2 efflux remain unresolved. Here, we show that in a multifactor free-air CO 2 enrichment experiment, BioCON (Biodiversity, CO 2 , and N deposition) in Minnesota, the positive response of soil respiration to eCO 2 gradually strengthened at ambient (low) N supply but not enriched (high) N supply for the 12-y experimental period from 1998 to 2009. In contrast to earlier years, eCO 2 stimulated soil respiration twice as much at low than at high N supply from 2006 to 2009. In parallel, microbial C degradation genes were significantly boosted by eCO 2 at low but not high N supply. Incorporating those functional genes into a coupled C–N ecosystem model reduced model parameter uncertainty and improved the projections ofmore »the effects of different CO 2 and N levels on soil respiration. If our observed results generalize to other ecosystems, they imply widely positive effects of eCO 2 on soil respiration even in infertile systems.« less
  4. Abstract

    Climate warming is known to impact ecosystem composition and functioning. However, it remains largely unclear how soil microbial communities respond to long-term, moderate warming. In this study, we used Illumina sequencing and microarrays (GeoChip 5.0) to analyze taxonomic and functional gene compositions of the soil microbial community after 14 years of warming (at 0.8–1.0 °C for 10 years and then 1.5–2.0 °C for 4 years) in a Californian grassland. Long-term warming had no detectable effect on the taxonomic composition of soil bacterial community, nor on any plant or abiotic soil variables. In contrast, functional gene compositions differed between warming and control for bacterial, archaeal, and fungal communities. Functional genes associated with labile carbon (C) degradation increased in relative abundance in the warming treatment, whereas those associated with recalcitrant C degradation decreased. A number of functional genes associated with nitrogen (N) cycling (e.g., denitrifying genes encoding nitrate-, nitrite-, and nitrous oxidereductases) decreased, whereasnifHgene encoding nitrogenase increased in the warming treatment. These results suggest that microbial functional potentials are more sensitive to long-term moderate warming than the taxonomic composition of microbial community.

  5. Abstract

    Unraveling the drivers controlling community assembly is a central issue in ecology. Although it is generally accepted that selection, dispersal, diversification and drift are major community assembly processes, defining their relative importance is very challenging. Here, we present a framework to quantitatively infer community assembly mechanisms by phylogenetic bin-based null model analysis (iCAMP). iCAMP shows high accuracy (0.93–0.99), precision (0.80–0.94), sensitivity (0.82–0.94), and specificity (0.95–0.98) on simulated communities, which are 10–160% higher than those from the entire community-based approach. Application of iCAMP to grassland microbial communities in response to experimental warming reveals dominant roles of homogeneous selection (38%) and ‘drift’ (59%). Interestingly, warming decreases ‘drift’ over time, and enhances homogeneous selection which is primarily imposed on Bacillales. In addition, homogeneous selection has higher correlations with drought and plant productivity under warming than control. iCAMP provides an effective and robust tool to quantify microbial assembly processes, and should also be useful for plant and animal ecology.

  6. Abstract

    Early evolution of mutualism is characterized by big and predictable adaptive changes, including the specialization of interacting partners, such as through deleterious mutations in genes not required for metabolic cross-feeding. We sought to investigate whether these early mutations improve cooperativity by manifesting in synergistic epistasis between genomes of the mutually interacting species. Specifically, we have characterized evolutionary trajectories of syntrophic interactions ofDesulfovibrio vulgaris(Dv) withMethanococcus maripaludis(Mm) by longitudinally monitoring mutations accumulated over 1000 generations of nine independently evolved communities with analysis of the genotypic structure of one community down to the single-cell level. We discovered extensive parallelism across communities despite considerable variance in their evolutionary trajectories and the perseverance within many evolution lines of a rare lineage ofDvthat retained sulfate-respiration (SR+) capability, which is not required for metabolic cross-feeding. An in-depth investigation revealed that synergistic epistasis across pairings ofDvandMmgenotypes had enhanced cooperativity within SR− and SR+ assemblages, enabling their coexistence within the same community. Thus, our findings demonstrate that cooperativity of a mutualism can improve through synergistic epistasis between genomes of the interacting species, enabling the coexistence of mutualistic assemblages of generalists and their specialized variants.

  7. Abstract

    There is an increasing interest in the clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats CRISPR-associated protein (CRISPR-Cas) system to reveal potential virus–host dynamics. The universal and most conserved Cas protein,cas1is an ideal marker to elucidate CRISPR-Cas ecology. We constructed eight Hidden Markov Models (HMMs) and assembledcas1directly from metagenomes by a targeted-gene assembler, Xander, to improve detection capacity and resolve the diverse CRISPR-Cas systems. The eight HMMs were first validated by recovering all 17cas1subtypes from the simulated metagenome generated from 91 prokaryotic genomes across 11 phyla. We challenged the targeted method with 48 metagenomes from a tallgrass prairie in Central Oklahoma recovering 3394cas1. Among those, 88 were near full length, 5 times more than in de-novo assemblies from the Oklahoma metagenomes. To validate the host assignment bycas1, the targeted-assembledcas1was mapped to the de-novo assembled contigs. All the phylum assignments of those mapped contigs were assigned independent of CRISPR-Cas genes on the same contigs and consistent with the host taxonomies predicted by the mappedcas1. We then investigated whether 8 years of soil warming alteredcas1prevalence within the communities. A shift in microbial abundances was observed during the year with the biggest temperature differential (mean 4.16 °C above ambient).cas1prevalence increased and even in the phylamore »with decreased microbial abundances over the next 3 years, suggesting increasing virus–host interactions in response to soil warming. This targeted method provides an alternative means to effectively minecas1from metagenomes and uncover the host communities.

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