Soil bacterial networks are less stable under drought than fungal networks

Franciska T de Vries, Rob I Griffiths, Mark Bailey, Hayley Craig, Mariangela Girlanda, Hyun Soon Gweon, Sara Hallin, Aurore Kaisermann, Aidan M Keith, Marina Kretzschmar, Philippe Lemanceau, Erica Lumini, Kelly E Mason, Anna Oliver, Nick Ostle, James I Prosser, Cecile Thion, Bruce Thomson, Richard D Bardgett

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Soil microbial communities play a crucial role in ecosystem functioning, but it is unknown how co-occurrence networks within these communities respond to disturbances such as climate extremes. This represents an important knowledge gap because changes in microbial networks could have implications for their functioning and vulnerability to future disturbances. Here, we show in grassland mesocosms that drought promotes destabilising properties in soil bacterial, but not fungal, co-occurrence networks, and that changes in bacterial communities link more strongly to soil functioning during recovery than do changes in fungal communities. Moreover, we reveal that drought has a prolonged effect on bacterial communities and their co-occurrence networks via changes in vegetation composition and resultant reductions in soil moisture. Our results provide new insight in the mechanisms through which drought alters soil microbial communities with potential long-term consequences, including future plant community composition and the ability of aboveground and belowground communities to withstand future disturbances.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3033
Number of pages12
JournalNature Communications
Early online date2 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2 Aug 2018

Bibliographical note

This study was funded as part of the European project EcoFINDERS (FP7-264465). F.T.d.V. is supported by a BBSRC David Phillips Fellowship (BB/L02456X/1). We thank Caley Brown, Melanie Hartley, Neil Mullinger, Helen Quirk, Deborah Ashworth and Victor van Velzen for help in the lab and field.


  • Journal Article
  • climate-change ecology
  • ecological networks
  • ecosystem ecology
  • microbial ecology


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