Soil fungal: Bacterial ratios are linked to altered carbon cycling

Ashish A. Malik* (Corresponding Author), Somak Chowdhury, Veronika Schlager, Anna Oliver, Jeremy Puissant, Perla G.M. Vazquez, Nico Jehmlich, Martin von Bergen, Robert I. Griffiths, Gerd Gleixner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Despite several lines of observational evidence, there is a lack of consensus on whether higher fungal:bacterial (F:B) ratios directly cause higher soil carbon (C) storage. We employed RNA sequencing, protein profiling and isotope tracer techniques to evaluate whether differing F:B ratios are associated with differences in C storage. A mesocosm 13C labeled foliar litter decomposition experiment was performed in two soils that were similar in their physico-chemical properties but differed in microbial community structure, specifically their F:B ratio (determined by PLFA analyses, RNA sequencing and protein profiling; all three corroborating each other). Following litter addition, we observed a consistent increase in abundance of fungal phyla; and greater increases in the fungal dominated soil; implicating the role of fungi in litter decomposition. Litter derived 13C in respired CO2 was consistently lower, and residual 13C in bulk SOM was higher in high F:B soil demonstrating greater C storage potential in the F:B dominated soil. We conclude that in this soil system, the increased abundance of fungi in both soils and the altered C cycling patterns in the F:B dominated soils highlight the significant role of fungi in litter decomposition and indicate that F:B ratios are linked to higher C storage potential.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1247
Number of pages11
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Publication statusPublished - 9 Aug 2016

Bibliographical note

We thank Steffen Ruehlow, Agnes Fastnacht, Karl Kuebler, Iris Kuhlmann, Heike Geilmann, and Petra Linke for technical support in establishing the experiment and with stable isotope analyses. We also thank Markus Lange, Daniel Read, and Hyun Gweon for helpful discussions.

AM has received funding from Max Planck Society and the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 655240. AM has also received a career orientation grant from the Jena School for Microbial Communication (JSMC) that funded the laboratory visits. DFG SFB Aquadiva funded part of this work.


  • Bacteria
  • Fungi
  • Litter decomposition
  • Proteomics
  • RNA sequencing
  • Soil carbon
  • Stable isotopes


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