Nutrients strengthen density dependence of per-capita growth and mortality rates in the soil bacterial community

Bram W. Stone, Steven J. Blazewicz, Benjamin J. Koch, Paul Dijkstra, Michaela Hayer, Kirsten S. Hofmockel, Xiao Jun Allen Liu, Rebecca L. Mau, Jennifer Pett-Ridge, Egbert Schwartz, Bruce A. Hungate

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Density dependence in an ecological community has been observed in many macro-organismal ecosystems and is hypothesized to maintain biodiversity but is poorly understood in microbial ecosystems. Here, we analyze data from an experiment using quantitative stable isotope probing (qSIP) to estimate per-capita growth and mortality rates of bacterial populations in soils from several ecosystems along an elevation gradient which were subject to nutrient addition of either carbon alone (glucose; C) or carbon with nitrogen (glucose + ammonium-sulfate; C + N). Across all ecosystems, we found that higher population densities, quantified by the abundance of genomes per gram of soil, had lower per-capita growth rates in C + N-amended soils. Similarly, bacterial mortality rates in C + N-amended soils increased at a significantly higher rate with increasing population size than mortality rates in control and C-amended soils. In contrast to the hypothesis that density dependence would promote or maintain diversity, we observed significantly lower bacterial diversity in soils with stronger negative density-dependent growth. Here, density dependence was significantly but weakly responsive to nutrients and was not associated with higher bacterial diversity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)771-782
Number of pages12
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2023


  • Bacteria
  • Density dependence
  • Diversity
  • Quantitative stable isotope probing (qSIP)
  • Soil

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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