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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Small-scale agricultural grassland management can affect soil fungal community structure as much as continental scale geographic patterns

Fox, A.; Widmer, F.; Barreiro, Ana; Jongen, M.; Musyoki, M.; Vieira, A.; Zimmermann, J.; Cruz, C.; Dimitrova Mårtensson, Linda-Maria; Rasche, F.; Silva, L.; Lüscher, A.


A European transect was established, ranging from Sweden to the Azores, to determine the relative influence of geographic factors and agricultural small-scale management on the grassland soil microbiome. Within each of five countries (factor ‘Country’), which maximized a range of geographic factors, two differing growth condition regions (factor ‘GCR’) were selected: a favorable region with conditions allowing for high plant biomass production and a contrasting less favorable region with a markedly lower potential. Within each region, grasslands of contrasting management intensities (factor ‘MI’) were defined: intensive and extensive, from which soil samples were collected. Across the transect, ‘MI’ was a strong differentiator of fungal community structure, having a comparable effect to continental scale geographic factors (‘Country’). ‘MI’ was also a highly significant driver of bacterial community structure, but ‘Country’ was clearly the stronger driver. For both, ‘GCR’ was the weakest driver. Also at the regional level, strong effects of MI occurred on various measures of the soil microbiome (i.e. OTU richness, management-associated indicator OTUs), though the effects were largely regional-specific. Our results illustrate the decisive influence of grassland MI on soil microbial community structure, over both regional and continental scales, and, thus, highlight the importance of preserving rare extensive grasslands.


European transect; metabarcoding; microbiome; intensive and extensive grassland management

Published in

FEMS Microbiology Ecology
2021, Volume: 97, number: 12, article number: fiab148