An examination of the biodiversity-ecosystem function relationship in arable soil microbial communities

B.S. Griffiths, K. Ritz, R. Wheatley, H.L. Kuan, B. Boag, S. Christensen, F. Ekelund, S.J. Sorensen, S. Muller, J. Bloem

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215 Citations (Scopus)


Microbial communities differing in biodiversity were established by inoculating sterile agricultural soil with serially diluted soil suspensions prepared from the parent soil. Three replicate communities of each dilution were allowed to establish an equivalent microbial biomass by incubation for 9 months at 15 °C, after which the biodiversity-ecosystem function relationship was examined for a range of soil processes. Biodiversity was determined by monitoring cultivable bacterial and fungal morphotypes, directly extracted eubacterial DNA and protozoan taxa. In the context of this study biodiversity relates to the numbers and proportions of different microbial species. Biodiversity decreased by ca. 15, 40 and 60% at each successive dilution step. There was no consistent effect of biodiversity on a range of soil processes measured (incorporation of thymidine and leucine, potential nitrification, nitrate accumulation, respiratory growth response, community level physiological profile and decomposition). Neither was there a direct effect of biodiversity on the variability of the processes, nor on the stability of decomposition when the soils were perturbed by heat or copper. The biodiversity of, and inter-relationships within, the microbial communitieswas such that the experimental reductions had no direct effects on soil function.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1713-1722
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
Issue number12-13
Publication statusPublished - 2001


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