Home  ›  News & Event  ›  Content

Professor Jizhong identified regulatory mechanisms of microbial diversity of forest soils

SOE, Tsinghua July 9th, 2016 On July 5th 2016, Professor Jizhong Zhou from School of Environment, Tsinghua University published a research article entitled "Temperature mediates continental-scale diversity of microbes in forest soils” in the journal Nature Communications, in which he discovered the important role of temperature in shaping microbial diversity in forest soils. Professor Zhou served as the first and corresponding author, Professor Ye Deng from Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, served as the co-corresponding author of the paper.

Forest soil samples collected at different spatial scales

Global warming has caused substantial impacts on plant and animal biodiversity, but the impact on microbial diversity remained elusive. Based on Arrhenius equation, the metabolic ecology theory predicts that warming may accelerate the metabolism and differentiation of species, leading to an exponential positive relationship between temperature and biodiversity. The theory has been validated by studies in plant and animals, but the applicability to microorganisms is unclear.

In collaboration with Dr. James H. Brown, a member of National Academy of Sciences of USA who established the metabolic ecology theory, Zhou and Deng adopted high-throughput sequencing technologies to examined a wide range of forest soil samples in the North American continent. They found that bacteria, fungi, and other nitrogen-fixing bacteria populations obeyed the metabolic ecology theory. The most important shaping factor at the continental scale is temperature, instead of generally believed soil pH. Nonetheless, the influence of temperature is weaker for microorganisms compared with plants and soil is high in heterogeneity, thus it was challenges in identifying the importance of temperature in previous studies. This finding demonstrates that the metabolic ecology theory is applicable for environmental microbiology, which provides fundamental insights in understanding and predicting how ecosystems respond to climate changes.