Back to Earth: Molecular Approaches to Microbial Ecology Must Consider Soil Morphology and Physicochemical Properties

Thumbnail Image


Publication or External Link





This project studied the influence of different long-term agricultural management regimes on soil microbial communities, and compared survival strategies of individual prokaryotic OTUs in diverse soils subjected to long-term incubation. Together these would show whether alterations to microbial communities affect rates of soil carbon cycling. Agricultural soils were sampled at arbitrary depths above and below the plow layer, and relative abundances of microbes were measured using high-throughput sequencing. `Activity' (rRNA:rDNA) ratios were calculated for individual OTUs identified by high-throughput sequencing of tropical rainforest and temperate cornfield soils after incubation for one year with differing water and carbon availabilities. It was found that depth controls microbial communities to a greater degree than agricultural management, and that the characterization of microbial trophic strategies might be complicated by the often-ignored DNA preservation potential of soil. The study highlights the need for holistic approaches to testing hypotheses in modern microbial ecology.