Underground connections : the interplay between tropical rainforest trees and soil microbial communities
Tropical rainforests host an exceptional biodiversity and play a fundamental role in the regulation of global climatic cycles. Soil fungi and bacteria are key players in the transformation and processing of nutrients in terrestrial ecosystems while having an essential role as tree mutualists or antagonists. Still, there are gaps in our understanding of the main variables driving soil microbes on these forests and it is unclear how future climate change scenarios may impact soil microbes and further affect the ecosystem. In this thesis, we first explored the drivers of the microbial community composition in two pristine forests in French Guiana by using amplicon DNA sequencing. The neighboring tree species were found to be a crucial factor influencing the fungal and bacterial community composition at our sites regardless of the season. Additionally, within the environmental factors explored, soil moisture, phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N) availability were consistently the main soil properties controlling the composition of soil microbial communities. Secondly, as increased nutrient deposition due to anthropogenic activities are expected to affect tropical forests ecosystems N and P availability, a factorial N and P nutrient addition experiment in the same sites was used to assess the effects of changes in the soil nutrient stoichiometry on the soil microbial communities. These results showed that after 3 years of nutrient additions, the bacterial and fungal community composition was affected by both the N and P additions. Besides, the fungal community composition had a stronger response to the nutrient addition, especially when P was added. Moreover, when the nutrient addition effect was assessed in bacteria and fungi with different life strategies, we found different nutrient optima between them. Furthermore, to study the effect of the connection to an existing mycorrhizal mycelium on tree seedlings, I established a mycelium exclusion experiment. Interestingly, we could not detect an effect of the mycorrhizal mycelium exclusion on the seedling N uptake, performance, or fungal community composition in roots after one year. All together this work provides a deeper understanding of the factors influencing the soil microbial communities on these lowland tropical forests, demonstrating that the tree community composition exerts a higher influence on the soil microbial community composition than previously expected. Moreover, our results show that the fungal and bacterial community composition and its relationship with trees in the vicinity is highly dependent on the ecosystem nutrient availability.
Antwerp : University of Antwerp, Faculty of Science, Department of Biology , 2024
205 p.
Supervisor: Verbruggen, Erik [Supervisor]
Supervisor: Schiman, Heidy [Supervisor]
Full text (open access)
The publisher created published version Available from 22.03.2026
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Project info
The influence of fungal networks on interactions among adult trees and seedlings.
Effects of phosphorus limitations on Life, Earth system and Society (IMBALANCE-P).
Publication type
Publications with a UAntwerp address
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Creation 29.03.2024
Last edited 19.06.2024
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