Drying and rewetting is a frequent physiological stress for soil microbial communities; a stress that is predicted to grow more influential with future climate change. We investigated the effect of repeated drying-rewetting cycles on bacterial (leucine incorporation) and fungal (acetate in ergosterol incorporation) growth, on the biomass concentration and composition (PLFA), and on the soil respiration. Using different plant material amendments, we generated soils with different initial fungal:bacterial compositions that we exposed to 6-10 repetitions of a drying-rewetting cycle. Drying-rewetting decreased bacterial growth while fungal growth remained unaffected, resulting in an elevated fungal:bacterial growth ratio. This effect was found irrespective of the initial fungal:bacterial biomass ratio. Many drying-rewetting cycles did not, however, affect the fungal:bacterial growth ratio compared to few cycles. The biomass response of the microbial community differed from the growth response, with fungal and total biomass only being slightly negatively affected by the repeated drying-rewetting. The discrepancy between growth- and biomass-based assessments underscores that microbial responses to perturbations might previously have been misrepresented with biomass-based assessments. In light of this, many aspects of environmental microbial ecology may need to be revisited with attention to what measure of the microbial community is relevant to study.
Interaction between fungi and bacteria in soil
Responses of soil microbes to drought and rewetting