Study shows how microbial functional genes-environment links for soil health monitoring

In terms of functional gene content, soil bacteria are important agents that influence how ecosystems work, but the understanding of their ecological implications and functional characterization is still insufficient. To sustain ecosystem multifunctionality in tropical forests, it is essential to comprehend how soil bacteria mitigate the environment of nutrient stress and maintain their activity.

Researchers from the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences aimed to understand the spatial pattern of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) cycling functional genes and discover their possible effect on the aboveground plant community in a hyper-diverse tropical forest ecosystem in Xishuangbanna in a study that was published in Science of the Total Environment.

The researchers focused on the P-cycle functional gene PhoD (molecular marker to assess organic phosphorus mineralization) and N-cycle functional genes NirK, AOA, and AOB (molecular markers for identifying denitrifies and ammonia oxidizers).

The researchers discovered larger regional variability with a maximum magnitude of abundance for the PhoD gene followed by NirK, AOA, and AOB genes through intensive soil sampling and vegetation data collecting. Only the PhoD gene demonstrated a direct beneficial influence on the plant biomass, and the PhoD gene abundance was favorably associated with the soil N:P ratio.

Researchers also discovered that the PhoD gene community is strong in phosphorus-limited environments, supplying an adequate amount of the readily accessible phosphorus needed by plants for growth. This shows that bacteria are being attracted to the soil environment in response to the ecosystem’s needs.

Therefore, in-depth spatial monitoring of microbial functions is required for identifying the microbial mechanisms of performing ecological functions (nutrient cycling, stress resistance, plant productivity, litter decomposition), their adaptation strategies to disturbances such as nutrient limiting conditions, and their contributions (cooperate or compete) to the plant community.”

 Xiaodong Yang, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences

Using microbial functional genes-environment connections to evaluate soil health and its overall effect on ecosystem multifunctionality, Yang said, has enhanced understanding of this area of research.

Source:
Journal reference:

Mishra, S., et al. (2022) Spatial pattern of functional genes abundance reveals the importance of PhoD gene harboring bacterial community for maintaining plant growth in the tropical forest of Southwestern China. Science of the Total Environment. doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.156863.

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