A University of Oklahoma-led research team has conducted a study on the diversity of microbial communities that demonstrates the effects of human-caused changes in climate, land use and other factors.  In this study, researchers show the diversity of soil bacteria, fungi and nitrogen-fixing bacteria all are better predicted by variation in environmental temperature rather than pH.

Jizhong Zhou, director of the Institute for Environmental Genomics and professor in the Department of Microbiology and Plant Biology and School of Civil Environmental Sciences, OU Colleges of Arts and Sciences and Gallogly College of Engineering, leads the research project with assistance from the University of Arizona, The Santa Fe Institute, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Balboa and University of New Mexico.  Zhou is an affiliate of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Tsinghua University.

The significance of this research project follows:  (1) first demonstration that temperature plays a primary role in shaping microbial diversity in the forest soils; (2) first study to illustrate that metabolic theory of ecology is applicable to microbial communities; and (3) first study to reveal that temperature is important in regulating species diversity but it could operate in different ways between plants and microorganisms.

“Temperature mediates continental-scale diversity of microbes in forest soils,” was published in Nature Communications on July 5, 2016.  This research was supported by the National Science Foundation MacroSystems Biology program under the contract NSF EF-1065844, the OU Office of the Vice President for Research, the Collaborative Innovation Center for Regional Environmental Quality at the Tsinghua University and the National Science Foundation of China.