Direct and indirect effects of a pH gradient bring insights into the mechanisms driving prokaryotic community structures

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Microbiome. 2018 Jun 11;6(1):106

Title: Direct and indirect effects of a pH gradient bring insights into the mechanisms driving prokaryotic community structures
Author: Lammel, Daniel R; Barth, Gabriel; Ovaskainen, Otso; Cruz, Leonardo M; Zanatta, Josileia A; Ryo, Masahiro; de Souza, Emanuel M; Pedrosa, Fábio O
Publisher: BioMed Central
Date: 2018-06-11
Abstract: Abstract Background pH is frequently reported as the main driver for prokaryotic community structure in soils. However, pH changes are also linked to “spillover effects” on other chemical parameters (e.g., availability of Al, Fe, Mn, Zn, and Cu) and plant growth, but these indirect effects on the microbial communities are rarely investigated. Usually, pH also co-varies with some confounding factors, such as land use, soil management (e.g., tillage and chemical inputs), plant cover, and/or edapho-climatic conditions. So, a more comprehensive analysis of the direct and indirect effects of pH brings a better understanding of the mechanisms driving prokaryotic (archaeal and bacterial) community structures. Results We evaluated an agricultural soil pH gradient (from 4 to 6, the typical range for tropical farms), in a liming gradient with confounding factors minimized, investigating relationships between prokaryotic communities (16S rRNA) and physical–chemical parameters (indirect effects). Correlations, hierarchical modeling of species communities (HMSC), and random forest (RF) modeling indicated that both direct and indirect effects of the pH gradient affected the prokaryotic communities. Some OTUs were more affected by the pH changes (e.g., some Actinobacteria), while others were more affected by the indirect pH effects (e.g., some Proteobacteria). HMSC detected a phylogenetic signal related to the effects. Both HMSC and RF indicated that the main indirect effect was the pH changes on the availability of some elements (e.g., Al, Fe, and Cu), and secondarily, effects on plant growth and nutrient cycling also affected the OTUs. Additionally, we found that some of the OTUs that responded to pH also correlated with CO2, CH4, and N2O greenhouse gas fluxes. Conclusions Our results indicate that there are two distinct pH-related mechanisms driving prokaryotic community structures, the direct effect and “spillover effects” of pH (indirect effects). Moreover, the indirect effects are highly relevant for some OTUs and consequently for the community structure; therefore, it is a mechanism that should be further investigated in microbial ecology.
Subject: pH
Sub-tropical soil
Microbial ecology
16S rRNA
Illumina sequencing
Soil chemistry

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