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Resource type and availability regulate fungal communities along arable soil profiles.

Soil fungi play an essential role in the decomposition of plant-derived organic material entering soils. The quality and quantity of organic compounds vary seasonally as well as with soil depth. To elucidate how these resources affect fungal communities in an arable soil, a field experiment was set up with two plant species, maize and wheat. Resource availability was experimentally manipulated by maize litter input on one half of these maize and wheat plots after harvest in autumn. Fungal biomass was determined by ergosterol quantification, and community structure was investigated by fungal automated ribosomal intergenic spacer analysis (F-ARISA). An annual cycle was assessed across a depth gradient, distinguishing three soil habitats: the plough layer, rooted soil below the plough layer, and deeper root-free soil. Fungal communities appeared highly dynamic and varied according to soil depth and plant resources. In the plough layer, the availability of litter played a dominant role in shaping fungal communities, whereas in the rooted layer below, community structure and biomass mainly differed between plant species. This plant effect was also extended into the root-free soil at a depth of 70 cm. In winter, the availability of litter also affected fungal communities in deeper soil layers, suggesting vertical transport processes under fallow conditions. These distinct resource effects indicate diverse ecological niches along the soil profile, comprising specific fungal metacommunities. The recorded responses to both living plants and litter point to a central role of fungi in connecting primary production and decomposition within the plant-soil system.

Moll, J.; Goldmann, K.; Kramer, S.; Hempel, S.; Kandeler, E.; Marhan, S.; Ruess, L.; Krüger, D.; Buscot, F. 2015. Resource type and availability regulate fungal communities along arable soil profiles. Microbial Ecology 70, 390-399.