Biodiversity Science ›› 2013, Vol. 21 ›› Issue (4): 411-420.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1003.2013.10033

Special Issue: Microbes Diversity

• Orginal Article • Previous Article     Next Article

Thoughts on the microbial diversity-stability relationship in soil ecosystems

Jizheng He1, *(), Jing Li1, 2, Yuanming Zheng1   

  1. 1 State Key Laboratory of Urban and Regional Ecology, Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100085
    2 University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049
  • Received:2013-02-02 Accepted:2013-04-16 Online:2013-07-29
  • He Jizheng

The diversity-stability relationship has been a controversial topic in ecology since the 1950s. Natural ecosystems are significantly influenced by human activity, so it is necessary to explore the diversity-stability relationship in relation to environmental disturbance and loss of biodiversity. Studies on this have focused more on above-ground terrestrial ecosystem, and consequently below-ground ecosystem has tended to be neglected, especially with regard to soil microbial diversity and stability. However, soil microbial diversity is crucial to the maintenance of ecosystem functioning as soil microorganisms influence many ecosystem processes and drive biogeochemical cycles. One important aim of soil microbial diversity research is to clarify the responses of soil microorganisms to various environmental fluctuations, so as to predict ecosystem stability and ecological service function. In this paper, we briefly introduce the concepts and research approaches for examining soil microbial diversity and below-ground ecosystem stability. Furthermore, we probe into the soil microbial diversity-stability relationship. We propose that the soil microbial system is a dynamic self-organized system. It maintains its relative stability as a result of soil microbes genetically adapting to environmental disturbances through mutation. In this way, the soil microbial system becomes resistant and resilient to environmental change and consequently sustains the stability of soil ecosystems. Future emphasis in the study of the relationships between soil microbial diversity and stability should put in the coupling processes of the below-ground ecosystem and the above-ground ecosystem. It is essential to construct a theoretical framework for soil microbial ecology by learning from theories of macroscopic ecology. We need to develop some mechanistic models to quantitatively describe and predict the relationship between soil microbial diversity and ecosystem stability.

Key words: diversity-stability, soil microorganisms, multifunctionality, functional redundancy, heredity and mutation, mechanistic model

Fig. 1

Basic framework and approaches for the study of soil microbial diversity (He & Zhang, 2011)"

Table 1

Calculations of resistance and resilience indices"

Fig. 2

Conceptual model of soil microbial system adapted to the environmental disturbance. Initial microbial community shifted to adapt to the changing environment. The number of high resistance and high resilience cluster (▲) increased to sustain the functional stability of community after the disturbance. The number of high resistance and low resilience cluster (△) maintained constant due to the high resistance. The number of low resistance and high resilience cluster (○) decreased due to the low resistance. Since the low resistance and low resilience cluster (●) did not adapt to the stress, its number sharply decreased. Stressed microbial community gradually adapted to the disturbance to form a new stable community. In this new community, the number of high resistance and high resilience cluster (▲) are the predominant species which substituted the extinctive species to sustain the functional stability of community (functional redundancy). The high resistance and low resilience cluster (△) maintained constant. The number of low resistance and high resilience cluster (○) returned to the initial status due to its high resilience in a short term. The low resistance and resilience cluster (●) disappeared and replaced by the new mutant species. After the disturbance finished, a new stable microbial community might return to the initial community."

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