Root and soil microbial communities constitute the below-ground plant microbiome, are drivers of nutrient cycling, and affect plant productivity. However, our understanding of their spatiotemporal patterns is confounded by exogenous factors that covary spatially, such as changes in host plant species, climate, and edaphic factors. These spatiotemporal patterns likely differ across microbiome domains (bacteria and fungi) and niches (root vs. soil).
To capture spatial patterns at a regional scale, we sampled the below-ground microbiome of switchgrass monocultures of five sites spanning > 3 degrees of latitude within the Great Lakes region. To capture temporal patterns, we sampled the below-ground microbiome across the growing season within a single site. We compared the strength of spatiotemporal factors to nitrogen addition determining the major drivers in our perennial cropping system. All microbial communities were most strongly structured by sampling site, though collection date also had strong effects; in contrast, nitrogen addition had little to no effect on communities. Though all microbial communities were found to have significant spatiotemporal patterns, sampling site and collection date better explained bacterial than fungal community structure, which appeared more defined by stochastic processes. Root communities, especially bacterial, were more temporally structured than soil communities which were more spatially structured,more »
Our results highlight the dynamic variability of plant microbiome composition and assembly across space and time, even within a single variety of a plant species. Root and soil fungal community compositions appeared spatiotemporally paired, while root and soil bacterial communities showed a temporal lag in compositional similarity suggesting active recruitment of soil bacteria into the root niche throughout the growing season. A better understanding of the drivers of these differential responses to space and time may improve our ability to predict microbial community structure and function under novel conditions.