Functional resilience of soil microbial communities depends on both soil structure and microbial community composition

B. S. Griffiths*, P. D. Hallett, H. L. Kuan, A. S. Gregory, C. W. Watts, A. P. Whitmore

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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The effects of soil structure and microbial community composition on microbial resistance and resilience to stress were found to be interrelated in a series of experiments. The initial ability of Pseudomonas fluorescens to decompose added plant residues immediately after a copper or heat stress (resistance) depended significantly on which of 26 sterile soils it was inoculated into. Subsequent studies showed that both the resistance and subsequent recovery in the ability of P. fluorescens to decompose added plant residues over 28 days after stress (resilience) varied significantly between a sandy and a clay-loam soil. Sterile, sandy and clay-loam soil was then inoculated with a complex microbial community extracted from either of the soils. The resulting microbial community structure depended on soil type rather than the source of inoculum, whilst the resistance and resilience of decomposition was similarly governed by the soil and not the inoculum source. Resilience of the clay-loam soil to heat stress did not depend on the water content of the soil at the time of stress, although the physical condition of the soil when decomposition was measured did affect the outcome. We propose that soil functional resilience is governed by the physico-chemical structure of the soil through its effect on microbial community composition and microbial physiology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)745-754
Number of pages10
JournalBiology and Fertility of Soils
Issue number5
Early online date5 Dec 2007
Publication statusPublished - May 2008


  • biodiversity
  • gamma-irradiation
  • resilience
  • water-content
  • plant
  • rhizosphere
  • biomass
  • soil structure
  • decomposition
  • bacterial communities
  • resistance
  • stability
  • grassland soils
  • microbial community composition

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