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Using proxies of microbial community‐weighted means traits to explain the cascading effect of management intensity, soil and plant traits on ecosystem resilience in mountain grasslands

Citation

Piton, Gabin et al. (2019), Using proxies of microbial community‐weighted means traits to explain the cascading effect of management intensity, soil and plant traits on ecosystem resilience in mountain grasslands, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.cz8w9gj06

Abstract

1. Trait-based approaches provide a framework to understand the role of functional biodiversity on ecosystem functioning under global change. While plant traits have been reported as potential drivers of soil microbial community composition and resilience, studies directly assessing microbial traits are scarce, limiting our mechanistic understanding of ecosystem functioning.

2. We used microbial biomass and enzyme stoichiometry, and mass-specific enzymes activity as proxies of microbial community-weighted mean (CWM) traits, to infer trade-offs in microbial strategies of resource use with cascading effects on ecosystem resilience. We simulated a drought event on intact plant-soil mesocosms extracted from mountain grasslands along a management intensity gradient. Ecosystem processes and properties related to nitrogen cycling were quantified before, during and after drought to characterize ecosystem resilience.

3. Soil microbial CWM traits and ecosystem resilience to drought were strongly influenced by grassland type. Structural equation modelling revealed a cascading effect from management to ecosystem resilience through modifications in soil nutrients, and plant and microbial CWM traits. Overall, our results depict a shift from high investment in extracellular enzymes in nutrient poor soils (oligotrophic strategy), to a copiotrophic strategy with low microbial biomass N:P and low investment in extracellular enzymes associated with exploitative plant traits in nutrient rich soils.

4. Microbial CWM traits responses to management intensity were highly related to ecosystem resilience. Microbial communities with a copiotrophic strategy had lower resistance but higher recovery to drought, while microbial communities with an oligotrophic strategy showed the opposite responses. The unexpected trade-off between plant and microbial resistance suggested that the lower resistance of copiotrophic microbial communities enabled plant resistance to drought.

5. Synthesis Grassland management has cascading effects on ecosystem resilience through its combined effects on soil nutrients and plant traits propagating to microbial traits and resilience. We suggest that intensification of permanent grassland management and associated increases in soil nutrient availability decreased plant-microbe competition for N under drought through the selection of drought-sensitive microbial communities with a copiotrophic strategy that promoted plant resistance. Including proxies of microbial CWM traits into the functional trait framework will strengthen our understanding of soil ecosystem functioning under global change.