Microbial community assembly in soil aggregates: A dynamic interplay of stochastic and deterministic processes

Menghui Dong, George A. Kowalchuk, Hongjun Liu, Wu Xiong, Xuhui Deng, Na Zhang, Rong Li, Qirong Shen, Francisco Dini-Andreote

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Understanding how distinct processes operate in mediating community assembly is a long-standing theme in (microbial) ecology. Particularly in soil microbial communities, we still lack a fundamental appreciation of how assembly processes structure communities at the fine-scale level of soil aggregates. In this study, samples from a long-term agricultural field subjected to different fertilization regimes were used to quantify the relative influences of stochastic and deterministic processes on soil bacterial community assembly. First, we found bacterial communities to be more phylogenetically clustered in larger soil aggregates comparatively to small aggregates (Spearman's r = −0.366, P < 0.05). Second, we found the overall relative influence of selection to gradually decrease with an increase of aggregate size (Mantel r = 0.161, P < 0.01). By partitioning aggregate sizes and fertilization regimes, we found that sites subjected to fertilization (including chemical, organic, and bio-organic fertilizers) displayed a stronger relaxation of selection and an increased influence of stochasticity with an increase in aggregate size; a pattern not significantly observed at the control (unfertilized) treatment. Collectively, our results highlight the importance of evaluating community assembly at the fine-scale levels of soil aggregates and illustrate how regional level disturbances (i.e., agricultural management) exert an influence on the dynamic interplay of stochastic and deterministic processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103911
JournalApplied Soil Ecology
StatePublished - Jul 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Soil Science


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