Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2021-41
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2021-41

  24 Mar 2021

24 Mar 2021

Review status: a revised version of this preprint was accepted for the journal BG and is expected to appear here in due course.

Plant genotype controls wetland soil microbial functioning in response to sea-level rise 

Hao Tang1, Susanne Liebner2,3, Svenja Reents1, Stefanie Nolte4,5, Kai Jensen1, Fabian Horn2, and Peter Mueller1,6 Hao Tang et al.
  • 1Institute of Plant Science and Microbiology, Universität Hamburg, Hamburg, 22609, Germany
  • 2GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Geomicrobiology, Potsdam, 14469, Germany
  • 3Institute of Biochemistry and Biology, University of Potsdam, Potsdam, 14469, Germany
  • 4School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR47TJ, UK
  • 5Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, Pakefield Rd, Lowestoft, UK
  • 6Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Edgewater, MD 21037, United States

Abstract. Climate change induced shifts in plant community composition affect the decomposition of soil organic matter via plant-microbe interactions, often with important consequences for ecosystem carbon and nutrient cycling. Given the high degree of intraspecific trait variability in plants, it has been hypothesized that genetic shifts within species yield a similar potential to affect soil microbial functioning.

We examined if sea-level rise and plant genotype interact to affect soil microbial communities in an experimental coastal wetland system, using two known genotypes of the dominant salt-marsh grass Elymus athericus characterized by differences in their sensitivity to flooding stress – i.e. an adapted genotype from low-marsh environments and an unadapted genotype from high-marsh environments. Plants were exposed to a large range of flooding frequencies in a factorial mesocosm experiment, and soil microbial-activity parameters (exo-enzyme activity and litter breakdown) and microbial community structure were assessed.

Plant genotype mediated the effect of flooding on soil microbial community structure and determined the presence of flooding effects on exo-enzyme activities and belowground litter breakdown. Larger variability in microbial community structure, enzyme activities, and litter breakdown in soils planted with the unadapted plant genotype supported our general hypothesis that effects of climate change on soil microbial activity and community structure can depend on plant intraspecific adaptations. We conclude that adaptive genetic variation in plants can suppress or facilitate the effects of climate change on soil microbial communities. If this finding applies more generally to wetland ecosystems and beyond, it yields important implications for experimental climate change research and models of soil organic matter accumulation.

Hao Tang et al.

Status: closed

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on bg-2021-41', Anonymous Referee #1, 27 Apr 2021
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Hao Tang, 06 Jul 2021
  • RC2: 'Comment on bg-2021-41', Anonymous Referee #2, 15 Jun 2021
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2', Hao Tang, 06 Jul 2021

Status: closed

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on bg-2021-41', Anonymous Referee #1, 27 Apr 2021
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Hao Tang, 06 Jul 2021
  • RC2: 'Comment on bg-2021-41', Anonymous Referee #2, 15 Jun 2021
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2', Hao Tang, 06 Jul 2021

Hao Tang et al.

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Short summary
We examined if sea-level rise and plant genotype interact to affect soil microbial functioning in a mesocosm experiment using two genotypes of a dominant saltmarsh grass characterized by differences in their flooding sensitivity. Larger variability in microbial community structure, enzyme activity, and litter breakdown in soils with the more sensitive genotype support our hypothesis that effects of climate change on soil microbial functioning can be controlled by plant intraspecific adaptations.
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