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Journal of Arid Land  2023, Vol. 15 Issue (5): 602-619    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-023-0013-8
Research article     
Plant property regulates soil bacterial community structure under altered precipitation regimes in a semi-arid desert grassland, China
ZHANG Lihua1,2,*(), GAO Han1,2, WANG Junfeng3, ZHAO Ruifeng1,2, WANG Mengmeng1,2, HAO Lianyi1,2, GUO Yafei1,2, JIANG Xiaoyu1,2, ZHONG Lingfei1,2
1College of Geography and Environment Science, Northwest Normal University, Lanzhou 730070, China
2Key Laboratory of Resource Environment and Sustainable Development of Oasis, Lanzhou 730070, China
3College of Grassland Agriculture, Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University, Yangling 712100, China
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Variations of precipitation have great impacts on soil carbon cycle and decomposition of soil organic matter. Soil bacteria are crucial participants in regulating these ecological processes and vulnerable to altered precipitation. Studying the impacts of altered precipitation on soil bacterial community structure can provide a novel insight into the potential impacts of altered precipitation on soil carbon cycle and carbon storage of grassland. Therefore, soil bacterial community structure under a precipitation manipulation experiment was researched in a semi-arid desert grassland in Chinese Loess Plateau. Five precipitation levels, i.e., control, reduced and increased precipitation by 40% and 20%, respectively (referred here as CK, DP40, DP20, IP40, and IP20) were set. The results showed that soil bacterial alpha diversity and rare bacteria significantly changed with altered precipitation, but the dominant bacteria and soil bacterial beta diversity did not change, which may be ascribed to the ecological strategy of soil bacteria. The linear discriminate analysis (LDA) effect size (LEfSe) method found that major response patterns of soil bacteria to altered precipitation were resource-limited and drought-tolerant populations. In addition, increasing precipitation greatly promoted inter-species competition, while decreasing precipitation highly facilitated inter-species cooperation. These changes in species interaction can promote different distribution ratios of bacterial populations under different precipitation conditions. In structural equation model (SEM) analysis, with changes in precipitation, plant growth characteristics were found to be drivers of soil bacterial community composition, while soil properties were not. In conclusion, our results indicated that in desert grassland ecosystem, the sensitive of soil rare bacteria to altered precipitation was stronger than that of dominant taxa, which may be related to the ecological strategy of bacteria, species interaction, and precipitation-induced variations of plant growth characteristics.

Key wordsplant-microbe interactions      bacterial community diversity      bacterial community composition      bacterial interactions      precipitation gradients     
Received: 30 July 2022      Published: 31 May 2023
Corresponding Authors: *ZHANG Lihua (E-mail:
Cite this article:

ZHANG Lihua, GAO Han, WANG Junfeng, ZHAO Ruifeng, WANG Mengmeng, HAO Lianyi, GUO Yafei, JIANG Xiaoyu, ZHONG Lingfei. Plant property regulates soil bacterial community structure under altered precipitation regimes in a semi-arid desert grassland, China. Journal of Arid Land, 2023, 15(5): 602-619.

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Variable DP40 DP20 CK IP20 IP40
Species richness 9.3±0.60a 8.5±1.26a 10.2±1.42a 10.0±1.44a 11.3±0.67a
AGB (g/m2) 84.72±12.31ab 79.24±3.97a 97.10±4.55ab 99.04±15.48ab 127.53±27.11b
Shannon's index 1.65±0.13a 1.27±0.13a 1.59±0.22a 1.38±0.25a 1.71±0.09a
Plant coverage (%) 63.79±12.28a 74.40±6.3ab 82.46±4.69ab 87.58±6.95b 82.37±2.22ab
Plant height (cm) 8.65±0.45a 8.66±0.89a 11.86±0.73b 12.34±0.93b 12.26±0.14b
Plant density (plants/m2) 82.67±16.6a 139.00±2.02b 161.67±15.88b 144.33±25.18b 163.17±10.31b
SWC (%) 2.87±0.13a 3.21±0.31a 3.56±0.55a 4.08±0.78a 4.41±0.65a
MBC (mg/kg) 354.26±40.94a 349.65±70.47a 375.58±44.1a 371.24±88.95a 378.05±53.55a
SOC (g/kg) 12.54±0.35a 12.24±0.55a 12.72±0.48a 10.86±1.42a 12.95±0.77a
TN (g/kg) 1.87±0.06a 1.65±0.07a 1.78±0.06a 1.57±0.22a 1.80±0.09a
TP (g/kg) 1.36±0.03a 1.32±0.03a 1.33±0.01a 1.31±0.01a 1.33±0.04a
SAN (mg/kg) 86.79±1.59a 79.45±4.89a 86.41±2.33a 76.44±9.42a 85.50±6.22a
SAP (mg/kg) 9.32±0.95c 7.79±0.53b 7.35±1.08ab 5.14±0.55a 5.94±0.53ab
SAK (mg/kg) 191.67±8.82ab 198.33±16.41ab 198.33±6.67ab 170.00±12.58a 208.33±12.02b
pH 8.36±0.04a 8.32±0.12a 8.47±0.04a 8.46±0.05a 8.38±0.03a
EC 314.30±24.48b 243.50±6.14a 236.07±9.4a 207.12±0.86a 218.15±6.86a
Table 1 Variations in plant community characteristics and soil physical-chemical properties under different precipitation treatments
Fig. 1 Changes in alpha diversity indices of soil bacterial community (a-d) and principal coordinates analysis of soil bacterial community composition (e) under different precipitation treatments. Different lowercase letters indicate significant differences among different precipitation treatments at P<0.05 level. Bars are standard errors. mACE, abundance-based coverage estimator; PC, principal coordinate.
Fig. 2 Bacterial community composition at phylum level (a), class level (b), and genus level (c) under different precipitation treatments
Fig. 3 Result of linear discriminate analysis (LDA) effect size (LEfSe) method of bacterial relative abundance under different precipitation treatments. (a), LEfSe result on bacterial community; (b), histogram of LDA scores computed for differentially abundant bacterial among precipitation treatments identified with a threshold value of >3.0; (c), comparison of relative abundance of bacteria detected by LEfSe analysis from phylum to genus level. Bars are standard errors.
Fig. 4 Interaction among bacterial operational taxonomic units (OTUs) under different precipitation treatments. Red line represents the negative correlation, and green line represents the positive correlation. (a), DP40; (b), DP20; (c), CK; (d), IP20; (e), IP40.
Precipitation treatment Number of nodes Number of edges Negative correlation (%) Average degree Average distance
DP40 48 782 46.80 16.29 0.35
DP20 49 772 49.87 15.71 0.33
CK 50 1012 49.21 20.24 0.41
IP20 50 834 50.84 16.68 0.34
IP40 49 768 52.60 15.67 0.34
Table 2 Network parameters under different precipitation treatments
Index Chao1 ACE Shannon's
Unweighted UniFrac distance Weighted UniFrac distance
P 0.453 0.604* 0.437 -0.436 0.818** 0.720** 0.011 -0.131
AGB -0.100 -0.050 0.057 -0.625* 0.339 0.193 -0.232 -0.507
Species richness 0.013 -0.042 0.307 0.056 0.296 0.424 -0.338 -0.482
Shannon's index -0.218 -0.257 0.004 0.282 0.186 -0.054 -0.129 -0.675**
Plant coverage 0.254 0.529* 0.036 -0.125 0.486 0.543* 0.271 0.179
Plant height 0.036 0.032 -0.168 0.211 -0.161 0.046 -0.104 -0.107
Plant density 0.050 0.221 0.061 -0.157 0.382 0.418 -0.232 0.118
SOC -0.164 -0.343 -0.064 0.314 0.132 -0.154 -0.111 -0.450
TN -0.307 -0.304 -0.271 0.632* -0.104 0.207 -0.036 -0.507
TP -0.157 -0.261 -0.154 0.296 0.118 0.057 -0.489 -0.529*
SAN -0.389 -0.479 -0.354 0.207 0.264 0.064 -0.164 -0.589*
SAP -0.475 -0.695** -0.397 0.463 -0.631 -0.549* -0.490 -0.122
SAK -0.284 -0.498 -0.311 0.205 0.120 -0.261 -0.253 -0.394
pH 0.039 0.329 -0.068 -0.564* 0.100 0.136 0.043 0.468
EC -0.349 -0.534* -0.320 0.411 -0.803** -0.661** -0.281 -0.013
SWC 0.039 0.221 0.186 -0.114 0.289 0.550* 0.200 -0.254
MBC -0.186 -0.111 -0.271 0.489 0.196 0.400 -0.061 -0.275
Table 3 Spearman's correlation coefficients between plant, soil characteristics, and bacterial diversity
Fig. 5 Relationship of bacterial community composition at phylum level with precipitation, plant, and soil factors. SOC, soil organic carbon; TN, total nitrogen; TP, total phosphorus; SAN, soil available nitrogen; SAP, soil available phosphorus; SAK, soil available potassium; EC, electrical conductivity; SWC, soil water content; MBC, microbial biomass carbon; S, Shannon's index; AGB, aboveground biomass; R, species richness; C, plant coverage; H, plant height; D, plant density; P, Precipitation. *, P<0.05 level; **, P<0.01 level; ***, P<0.001 level.
Fig. 6 Structure equation model (SEM) result of the impact of altered precipitation on soil bacterial community. Ellipse represents a potential variable, rectangle represents a measurable variable, and circle represents residual (e1-e9). R, species richness; AGB, aboveground biomass; PG, plant growth; P, precipitation; BC, bacterial community; SP, soil property; SOC, soil organic carbon; SAN, soil available nitrogen; SAK, soil available potassium. *, P<0.05 level.
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