Stoichiometric shifts in soil C:N:P promote bacterial taxa dominance, maintain biodiversity, and deconstruct community assemblages

Zachary T. Aanderud, Sabrina Saurey, Rebecca Ball, Diana H. Wall, John E. Barrett, Mario E. Muscarella, Natasha A. Griffin, Ross A. Virginia, Byron J. Adams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Imbalances in C:N:P supply ratios may cause bacterial resource limitations and constrain biogeochemical processes, but the importance of shifts in soil stoichiometry are complicated by the nearly limitless interactions between an immensely rich species pool and a multiple chemical resource forms. To more clearly identify the impact of soil C:N:P on bacteria, we evaluated the cumulative effects of single and coupled long-term nutrient additions (i.e., C as mannitol, N as equal concentrations NH4+ and NO3-, and P as Na3PO4) and water on communities in an Antarctic polar desert, Taylor Valley. Untreated soils possessed relatively low bacterial diversity, simplified organic C sources due to the absence of plants, limited inorganic N, and excess soil P potentially attenuating links between C:N:P. After 6 years of adding resources, an alleviation of C and N colimitation allowed one rare Micrococcaceae, an Arthrobacter species, to dominate, comprising 47% of the total community abundance and elevating soil respiration by 136% relative to untreated soils. The addition of N alone reduced C:N ratios, elevated bacterial richness and diversity, and allowed rare taxa relying on ammonium and nitrite for metabolism to become more abundant [e.g., nitrite oxidizing Nitrospira species (Nitrosomonadaceae), denitrifiers utilizing nitrite (Gemmatimonadaceae) and members of Rhodobacteraceae with a high affinity for ammonium]. Based on community co-occurrence networks, lower C:P ratios in soils following P and CP additions created more diffuse and less connected communities by disrupting 73% of species interactions and selecting for taxa potentially exploiting abundant P. Unlike amended nutrients, water additions alone elicited no lasting impact on communities. Our results suggest that as soils become nutrient rich a wide array of outcomes are possible from species dominance and the deconstruction of species interconnectedness to the maintenance of biodiversity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1401
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Issue numberJUL
StatePublished - Jul 3 2018


  • Ecological stoichiometry
  • Lake Fryxell Basin
  • McMurdo Dry Valleys
  • Network community modeling
  • Nutrient colimitation
  • Solirubrobacteriaceae

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)


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