Land management shapes drought responses of dominant soil microbial taxa across grasslands

J. M. Lavallee, M. Chomel, N. Alvarez Segura, F. de Castro, T. Goodall, M. Magilton, J. M. Rhymes, M. Delgado-Baquerizo, R. I. Griffiths, E. M. Baggs, T. Caruso, F. T. de Vries, M. Emmerson, D. Johnson, R. D. Bardgett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Soil microbial communities are dominated by a relatively small number of taxa that may play outsized roles in ecosystem functioning, yet little is known about their capacities to resist and recover from climate extremes such as drought, or how environmental context mediates those responses. Here, we imposed an in situ experimental drought across 30 diverse UK grassland sites with contrasting management intensities and found that: (1) the majority of dominant bacterial (85%) and fungal (89%) taxa exhibit resistant or opportunistic drought strategies, possibly contributing to their ubiquity and dominance across sites; and (2) intensive grassland management decreases the proportion of drought-sensitive and non-resilient dominant bacteria—likely via alleviation of nutrient limitation and pH-related stress under fertilisation and liming—but has the opposite impact on dominant fungi. Our results suggest a potential mechanism by which intensive management promotes bacteria over fungi under drought with implications for soil functioning.

Original languageEnglish
Article number29
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 22 Nov 2023


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