What are the environmental factors that affect microbial diversity and their function in soil?
Soils harbor an incredibly high diversity of organisms. Just one teaspoon of natural soil can contain billions of microorganisms and millions of microbial species. Fungi make up a large portion of the biodiversity in soil and can function as decomposers (i.e., saprotrophs) or plant mutualists (i.e., mycorrhizae), among other functional groups. In forest soils, it is becoming increasingly clear that fungi respond to small-scale changes to their environment. The patchy nature of forest soils can change fungal taxa and their activities over short distances. However, natural ecosystems are faced with multiple environmental factors at the same time, making it difficult to tease apart the effects of one factor from another. HF&G provides scientists with the capability to conduct long-term ecological studies to gain a better understanding of the multiple factors that influence soil diversity. To date, HF&G studies have investigated how yearly changes to snow fall, leaf litter inputs, and spring ephemerals, to name a few, can impact soil fungal diversity and function. Such studies can help clarify the environmental conditions that are the most important for changing belowground organisms and their activities, and which can be important for the future health of forests given climate change. Work is continuing on data sets that span more than a decade to help predict how environmental factors affect microbial diversity and function in soil.
soil fungi, climate change, forest, mycorrhizae