Evidence of Ash Tree (Fraxinus spp.) Specific Associations with Soil Bacterial Community Structure and Functional Capacity
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The spread of the invasive emerald ash borer (EAB) across North America has had enormous impacts on temperate forest ecosystems. The selective removal of ash trees (Fraxinus spp.) has resulted in abnormally large inputs of coarse woody debris and altered forest tree community composition, ultimately affecting a variety of ecosystem processes. The goal of this study was to determine if the presence of ash trees influences soil bacterial communities and/or functions to better understand the impacts of EAB on forest successional dynamics and biogeochemical cycling. Using 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing of soil DNA collected from ash and non-ash plots in central Ohio during the early stages of EAB infestation, we found that bacterial communities in plots with ash differed from those without ash. These differences were largely driven by Acidobacteria, which had a greater relative abundance in non-ash plots. Functional genes required for sulfur cycling, phosphorus cycling, and carbohydrate metabolism (specifically those which breakdown complex sugars to glucose) were estimated to be more abundant in non-ash plots, while nitrogen cycling gene abundance did not differ. This ash-soil microbiome association implies that EAB-induced ash decline may promote belowground successional shifts, altering carbon and nutrient cycling and changing soil properties beyond the effects of litter additions caused by ash mortality.
Ricketts, Michael P.; Flower, Charles E.; Knight, Kathleen S.; Gonzalez-Meler, Miquel A. . 2018. Evidence of Ash Tree (Fraxinus spp.) Specific Associations with Soil Bacterial Community Structure and Functional Capacity. Forests. 9(4): 187-. 16 p. https://doi.org/10.3390/f9040187.