Analysing the consequences of the decrease in biodiversity for ecosystem functioning and stability has been a major concern in ecology. However, the impact of decline in soil microbial diversity on ecosystem sustainability remains largely unknown. This has been assessed for decomposition, which is insured by a large proportion of the soil microbial community, but not for more specialized and less diverse microbial groups. We determined the impact of a decrease in soil microbial diversity on the stability (i.e. resistance and resilience following disturbance) of two more specialized bacterial functional groups: denitrifiers and nitrite oxidizers. Soil microbial diversity was reduced using serial dilutions of a suspension obtained from a non-sterile soil that led to loss of species with low cell abundance, inoculation of microcosms of the same sterile soil with these serial dilutions, and subsequent incubation to enable establishment of similar cell abundances between treatments. The structure, cell abundance and activity of denitrifying and nitrite-oxidizing communities were characterized after incubation. Increasing dilution led to a progressive decrease in community diversity as assessed by the number of denaturating gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) bands, while community functioning was not impaired when cell abundance recovered after incubation. The microcosms were then subjected to a model disturbance: heating to 42 degrees C for 24 h. Abundance, structure and activity of each community were measured 3 h after completion of the disturbance to assess resistance, and after incubation of microcosms for 1 month to assess resilience. Resistance and resilience to the disturbance differed between the two communities, nitrite oxidizers being more affected. However, reducing the diversity of the two microbial functional groups did not impair either their resistance or their resilience following the disturbance. These results demonstrate the low sensitivity of the resistance and resilience of both microbial groups to diversity decline provided that cell abundance is similar between treatments.
- ecosystem function relationship
- electrophoresis DGE
- oxidizing bacteria
- species richness