Response of soil microbial community structure, carbon and nitrogen cycling to drying and rewetting

Kate E. Matthews, José M. Facelli, Timothy R. Cavagnaro

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Global change scenarios predict that precipitation regimes will become more variable in many parts of the world, extending drought periods and increasing rainfall intensity. Under these conditions, soil microbial community composition will likely change in ways that have implications for microbially-mediated nutrient cycling. Understanding these responses is key to predicting consequential changes in ecosystem functions. A 30 day incubation experiment was used to investigate the response of microbial community structure to three different soil moisture treatments, namely, constantly moist (CM), constantly dry (CD), and drying-rewetting (DRW), in soils of three different land condition types (Remnant, Restored, and Old-field) from Para Woodlands Nature Reserve, South Australia. Soil respiration and inorganic N transformations were approximately the same across soils, despite fundamental differences in physicochemical properties, vegetation communities, and land-use history. Soil microbial community structure changed in response to the different soil moisture treatments; responses of taxa was divergent among soils. These results demonstrate that changes to soil moisture regimes under climate projections will almost certainly have consequences for soil microbial communities and C and N dynamics. The results highlight the need for further research to understand the mechanisms driving divergent responses to soil moisture, particularly in areas of different land-use types.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105099
Number of pages12
JournalApplied Soil Ecology
Early online date19 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


  • Drying-rewetting
  • Ecosystem function and services
  • Mineral nitrogen transformations
  • Soil microbial community
  • Soil respiration


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