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      Evidence that acidification-induced declines in plant diversity and productivity are mediated by changes in below-ground communities and soil properties in a semi-arid steppe

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      Journal of Ecology

      Wiley-Blackwell

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          Biodiversity loss and its impact on humanity.

          The most unique feature of Earth is the existence of life, and the most extraordinary feature of life is its diversity. Approximately 9 million types of plants, animals, protists and fungi inhabit the Earth. So, too, do 7 billion people. Two decades ago, at the first Earth Summit, the vast majority of the world's nations declared that human actions were dismantling the Earth's ecosystems, eliminating genes, species and biological traits at an alarming rate. This observation led to the question of how such loss of biological diversity will alter the functioning of ecosystems and their ability to provide society with the goods and services needed to prosper.
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            The unseen majority: soil microbes as drivers of plant diversity and productivity in terrestrial ecosystems.

            Microbes are the unseen majority in soil and comprise a large portion of life's genetic diversity. Despite their abundance, the impact of soil microbes on ecosystem processes is still poorly understood. Here we explore the various roles that soil microbes play in terrestrial ecosystems with special emphasis on their contribution to plant productivity and diversity. Soil microbes are important regulators of plant productivity, especially in nutrient poor ecosystems where plant symbionts are responsible for the acquisition of limiting nutrients. Mycorrhizal fungi and nitrogen-fixing bacteria are responsible for c. 5-20% (grassland and savannah) to 80% (temperate and boreal forests) of all nitrogen, and up to 75% of phosphorus, that is acquired by plants annually. Free-living microbes also strongly regulate plant productivity, through the mineralization of, and competition for, nutrients that sustain plant productivity. Soil microbes, including microbial pathogens, are also important regulators of plant community dynamics and plant diversity, determining plant abundance and, in some cases, facilitating invasion by exotic plants. Conservative estimates suggest that c. 20 000 plant species are completely dependent on microbial symbionts for growth and survival pointing to the importance of soil microbes as regulators of plant species richness on Earth. Overall, this review shows that soil microbes must be considered as important drivers of plant diversity and productivity in terrestrial ecosystems.
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              Soil bacterial and fungal communities across a pH gradient in an arable soil.

              Soils collected across a long-term liming experiment (pH 4.0-8.3), in which variation in factors other than pH have been minimized, were used to investigate the direct influence of pH on the abundance and composition of the two major soil microbial taxa, fungi and bacteria. We hypothesized that bacterial communities would be more strongly influenced by pH than fungal communities. To determine the relative abundance of bacteria and fungi, we used quantitative PCR (qPCR), and to analyze the composition and diversity of the bacterial and fungal communities, we used a bar-coded pyrosequencing technique. Both the relative abundance and diversity of bacteria were positively related to pH, the latter nearly doubling between pH 4 and 8. In contrast, the relative abundance of fungi was unaffected by pH and fungal diversity was only weakly related with pH. The composition of the bacterial communities was closely defined by soil pH; there was as much variability in bacterial community composition across the 180-m distance of this liming experiment as across soils collected from a wide range of biomes in North and South America, emphasizing the dominance of pH in structuring bacterial communities. The apparent direct influence of pH on bacterial community composition is probably due to the narrow pH ranges for optimal growth of bacteria. Fungal community composition was less strongly affected by pH, which is consistent with pure culture studies, demonstrating that fungi generally exhibit wider pH ranges for optimal growth.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Journal of Ecology
                J Ecol
                Wiley-Blackwell
                00220477
                September 2013
                September 2013
                : 101
                : 5
                : 1322-1334
                Article
                10.1111/1365-2745.12119
                © 2013

                http://doi.wiley.com/10.1002/tdm_license_1.1

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