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Climate warming accelerates temporal scaling of grassland soil microbial biodiversity


Determining the temporal scaling of biodiversity, typically described as species–time relationships (STRs), in the face of global climate change is a central issue in ecology because it is fundamental to biodiversity preservation and ecosystem management. However, whether and how climate change affects microbial STRs remains unclear, mainly due to the scarcity of long-term experimental data. Here, we examine the STRs and phylogenetic–time relationships (PTRs) of soil bacteria and fungi in a long-term multifactorial global change experiment with warming (+3 °C), half precipitation (−50%), double precipitation (+100%) and clipping (annual plant biomass removal). Soil bacteria and fungi all exhibited strong STRs and PTRs across the 12 experimental conditions. Strikingly, warming accelerated the bacterial and fungal STR and PTR exponents (that is, the w values), yielding significantly (P < 0.001) higher temporal scaling rates. While the STRs and PTRs were significantly shifted by altered precipitation, clipping and their combinations, warming played the predominant role. In addition, comparison with the previous literature revealed that soil bacteria and fungi had considerably higher overall temporal scaling rates (w = 0.39–0.64) than those of plants and animals (w = 0.21–0.38). Our results on warming-enhanced temporal scaling of microbial biodiversity suggest that the strategies of soil biodiversity preservation and ecosystem management may need to be adjusted in a warmer world.

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Fig. 1: STR and PTR of bacteria and fungi under warming (red) and control (blue) treatment conditions.
Fig. 2: Effect size (Cohen’s d) of all single and combined treatments.
Fig. 3: Changes in STR ws and PTR wp in major common phyla under different treatments.
Fig. 4: Comparison of STR and PTR exponents in micro- and macroorganisms.


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We thank numerous former laboratory members for their help in maintaining the experimental site. This work is supported by the US Department of Energy, Office of Science, Genomic Science Program under award nos. DE-SC0004601 and DE-SC0010715, the National Science Foundation of China (award no. 41430856) and the Office of the Vice President for Research at the University of Oklahoma. X.G., X.Z. and Q.G. were generously supported by the China Scholarship Council (award no. 201406370046, 201306370141 and 201506210136).

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All authors contributed intellectual input and assistance to this study. The original concept and experimental strategy were developed by J.Z., Y.L. and J.M.T. Field management was carried out by M.Y., J.F., B.F., X.Z., A.Z., L.H., Z.L., Liyou Wu and J.D.V.N. Collection sampling, DNA preparation and MiSeq sequencing analysis were carried out by X.Z., X.G., J.F., M.Y., Y.F. and L.H. Soil chemical analysis was carried out by X.Z., X.G. and M.Y. Various statistical analyses were carried by X.G., Z.S., D.N., Linwei Wu, W.S. and Q.G. Assistance in data interpretation was provided by G.Q., X.L., Z.H. and Y.Y. All data analysis and integration were guided by J.Z. The paper was written by J.Z. and X.G. with help from J.M.T. and D.N. Because of their contributions in terms of site management, and data collection, analysis and/or integration over the last 6 years, X.G., X.Z. and L.H. were listed as co-first authors.

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Correspondence to Jizhong Zhou.

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Guo, X., Zhou, X., Hale, L. et al. Climate warming accelerates temporal scaling of grassland soil microbial biodiversity. Nat Ecol Evol 3, 612–619 (2019).

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