Historical forest disturbance mediates soil microbial community responses to drought

Ernest D. Osburn, Brian D. Badgley, Frank O. Aylward, J. E. Barrett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Despite the abundance of studies demonstrating the effects of drought on soil microbial communities, the role of land use legacies in mediating these drought effects is unclear. To assess historical land use influences on microbial drought responses, we conducted a drought-rewetting experiment in soils from two adjacent and currently forested watersheds with distinct land use histories: an undisturbed ‘reference’ site and a ‘disturbed’ site that was clear-cut and converted to agriculture ~60 years prior. We incubated intact soil cores at either constant moisture or under a drought-rewet treatment and characterized bacterial and fungal communities using amplicon sequencing throughout the experiment. Bacterial alpha diversity decreased following drought-rewetting while fungal diversity increased. Bacterial beta diversity also changed markedly following drought-rewetting, especially in historically disturbed soils, while fungal beta diversity exhibited little response. Additionally, bacterial beta diversity in disturbed soils recovered less from drought-rewetting compared with reference soils. Disturbed soil communities also exhibited notable reductions in nitrifying taxa, increases in putative r-selected bacteria, and reductions in network connectivity following drought-rewetting. Overall, our study reveals historical land use to be important in mediating responses of soil bacterial communities to drought, which will influence the ecosystem-scale trajectories of these environments under ongoing and future climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6405-6419
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Society for Applied Microbiology and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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