Minor Changes in Soil Bacterial and Fungal Community Composition Occur in Response to Monsoon Precipitation in a Semiarid Grassland

Theresa A. McHugh, George W. Koch, Egbert Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Arizona and New Mexico receive half of their annual precipitation during the summer monsoon season, making this large-scale rain event critical for ecosystem productivity. We used the monsoon rains to explore the responses of soil bacterial and fungal communities to natural moisture pulses in a semiarid grassland. Through 454 pyrosequencing of the 16S rRNA gene and ITS region, we phylogenetically characterized these communities at 22 time points during a summer season. Relative humidity increased before the rains arrived, creating conditions in soil that allowed for the growth of microorganisms. During the course of the study, the relative abundances of most bacterial phyla showed little variation, though some bacterial populations responded immediately to an increase in soil moisture once the monsoon rains arrived. The Firmicutes phylum experienced over a sixfold increase in relative abundance with increasing water availability. Conversely, Actinobacteria, the dominant taxa at our site, were negatively affected by the increase in water availability. No relationship was found between bacterial diversity and soil water potential. Bacterial community structure was unrelated to all environmental variables that we measured, with the exception of a significant relationship with atmospheric relative humidity. Relative abundances of fungal phyla fluctuated more throughout the season than bacterial abundances did. Variation in fungal community structure was unrelated to soil water potential and to most environmental variables. However, ordination analysis showed a distinct fungal community structure late in the season, probably due to plant senescence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)370-378
Number of pages9
JournalMicrobial Ecology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Soil Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Minor Changes in Soil Bacterial and Fungal Community Composition Occur in Response to Monsoon Precipitation in a Semiarid Grassland'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this