Little is known of the responsiveness of soil bacterial community structure to disturbance. In this study, we subjected a soil microcosm to physical disturbance, sterilizing 90 % of the soil volume each time, at a range of frequencies. We analysed the bacterial community structure using 454 pyrosequencing of the 16S rRNA gene. Bacterial diversity was found to decline with the increasing disturbance frequencies. Total bacterial abundance was, however, higher at intermediate and high disturbance frequencies, compared to low and no-disturbance treatments. Changing disturbance frequency also led to changes in community composition, with changes in overall species composition and some groups becoming abundant at the expense of others. Some phylogenetic groups were found to be relatively more disturbance-sensitive or tolerant than others. With increasing disturbance frequency, phylogenetic species variability (an index of community composition) itself became more variable from one sample to another, suggesting a greater role of chance in community composition. Compared to the tightly clustered community of the original undisturbed soil, in all the aged disturbed soils the lists of most abundant operational taxonomic units (OTUs) in each replicate were very different, suggesting a possible role of stochasticity in resource colonization and exploitation in the aged and disturbed soils. For example, colonization may be affected by whichever localized concentrations of bacterial populations happen to survive the last disturbance and be reincorporated in abundance into each pot. Overall, it appears that the soil bacterial community is very sensitive to physical disturbance, losing diversity, and that certain groups have identifiable 'high disturbance' vs. 'low disturbance' niches.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Soil Science