Soil hydrology drives ecological niche differentiation in a native prairie microbiome

James S. Griffin, Loren A. Haug, Vivien A Rivera, Liliana M. Hernandez Gonzalez, John J. Kelly, William M Miller, George F. Wells, Aaron I. Packman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


While the impacts of soil moisture on soil microbiome diversity and composition are well characterized, the influence of hydrological regime has been overlooked. As precipitation patterns are altered by climate change, understanding the impact of soil hydrology on community structure and function is critical. In this work, water level was continuously monitored for over a year in a Midwestern prairie-wetland at 10 cm depth increments up to a depth of 120 cm in 10 locations. We analyzed microbiome composition and edaphic factors in soil cores collected from this unique spatially distributed, longitudinal data set. We demonstrate that the fraction of time that each sample was inundated explains more variability in diversity and composition across this site than other commonly assessed edaphic factors, such as soil pH or depth. Finally, we show that these compositional changes influence abundance of ammonia oxidizers. The observed patterns in community composition and diversity are fundamentally regulated by the interaction of water with a structured landscape, particularly an elevated sand ridge characterized by drier conditions and a lower-lying wetland with more clayey soils. Similar processes are generally expected to influence the biogeography of many terrestrial environments, as morphology, hydrology and soil properties generally co-vary.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberfiz163
JournalFEMS microbiology ecology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020


  • Longitudinal soil hydrology
  • Native prairie microbiome
  • Soil microbiome diversity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Microbiology
  • Ecology


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