Table_1_Drought-Induced Accumulation of Root Exudates Supports Post-drought Recovery of Microbes in Mountain Grassland.docx (2.85 MB)
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Table_1_Drought-Induced Accumulation of Root Exudates Supports Post-drought Recovery of Microbes in Mountain Grassland.docx

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posted on 07.11.2018, 13:47 authored by Stefan Karlowsky, Angela Augusti, Johannes Ingrisch, Mohammad Kamal Uddin Akanda, Michael Bahn, Gerd Gleixner

Droughts strongly affect carbon and nitrogen cycling in grasslands, with consequences for ecosystem productivity. Therefore, we investigated how experimental grassland communities interact with groups of soil microorganisms. In particular, we explored the mechanisms of the drought-induced decoupling of plant photosynthesis and microbial carbon cycling and its recovery after rewetting. Our aim was to better understand how root exudation during drought is linked to pulses of soil microbial activity and changes in plant nitrogen uptake after rewetting. We set up a mesocosm experiment on a meadow site and used shelters to simulate drought. We performed two 13C-CO2 pulse labelings, the first at peak drought and the second in the recovery phase, and traced the flow of assimilates into the carbohydrates of plants and the water extractable organic carbon and microorganisms from the soil. Total microbial tracer uptake in the main metabolism was estimated by chloroform fumigation extraction, whereas the lipid biomarkers were used to assess differences between the microbial groups. Drought led to a reduction of aboveground versus belowground plant growth and to an increase of 13C tracer contents in the carbohydrates, particularly in the roots. Newly assimilated 13C tracer unexpectedly accumulated in the water-extractable soil organic carbon, indicating that root exudation continued during the drought. In contrast, drought strongly reduced the amount of 13C tracer assimilated into the soil microorganisms. This reduction was more severe in the growth-related lipid biomarkers than in the metabolic compounds, suggesting a slowdown of microbial processes at peak drought. Shortly after rewetting, the tracer accumulation in the belowground plant carbohydrates and in the water-extractable soil organic carbon disappeared. Interestingly, this disappearance was paralleled by a quick recovery of the carbon uptake into metabolic and growth-related compounds from the rhizospheric microorganisms, which was probably related to the higher nitrogen supply to the plant shoots. We conclude that the decoupling of plant photosynthesis and soil microbial carbon cycling during drought is due to reduced carbon uptake and metabolic turnover of rhizospheric soil microorganisms. Moreover, our study suggests that the maintenance of root exudation during drought is connected to a fast reinitiation of soil microbial activity after rewetting, supporting plant recovery through increased nitrogen availability.

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