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Quantifying the immediate response of the soil microbial community to different grazing intensities on irrigated pastures
Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment  (IF5.567),  Pub Date : 2021-12-08, DOI: 10.1016/j.agee.2021.107805
Emily Van Syoc, Shannon E. Albeke, John Derek Scasta, Linda T.A. van Diepen

Grazing is known to affect soil microbial communities, nutrient cycling, and forage quantity and quality over time. However, a paucity of information exists for the immediate changes in the soil physicochemical and microbial environment in response to different grazing strategies. Soil microbes drive nutrient cycling and are involved in plant-soil-microbe relationships, making them potentially vulnerable to plant-driven changes in the soil environment caused by grazing. To test the hypothesis that variable grazing intensities modulate immediate effects on the soil microbial community, we conducted a grazing trial of three management approaches; high-intensity, short-duration grazing (HDG), low-intensity, medium-duration grazing (LDG), and no grazing (NG). Soil and vegetation samples were collected before grazing and 24h, 1 week, and 4 weeks after HDG grazing ended. Soil labile carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) pools, vegetation biomass, and soil microbial diversity and functional traits were determined, including extracellular enzymatic assays and high-throughput sequencing of the bacterial 16S rRNA and fungal ITS2 regions. We found that labile soil C and inorganic N increased following LDG grazing while C-cycling extracellular enzymatic activities increased in response to HDG grazing but both total extracellular enzymatic activity profiles and soil abiotic profiles were mostly affected by temporal fluxes. The soil fungal community composition was strongly affected by the interaction of sampling time and grazing treatment, while the soil bacterial community composition was largely affected by sampling time with a lesser impact from grazing treatment. We identified several key fungal taxa that may influence immediate responses to grazing and modulate plant-soil-microbe interactions. There was strong evidence of temporal influences on soil biogeochemical variables and the soil microbiome, even within our narrow sampling scheme. Our results indicate that the soil ecosystem is dynamic and responsive to different grazing strategies within very short time scales, showing the need for further research to understand plant-soil-microbe interactions and how these feedback mechanisms can inform sustainable land management.