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Research article2006Peer reviewed

Context-dependent changes in the resistance and resilience of soil microbes to an experimental disturbance for three primary plant chronosequences

Orwin KH, Wardle DA, Greenfield LG


The extrinsic factors that regulate soil microbial stability (resistance and resilience) are little understood, even though soil microbes are important drivers of ecosystem function and their stability is likely to affect soil carbon storage and plant nutrient availability. Soils were collected across three primary plant chronosequences (two in New Zealand and one in Hawaii) that differed in climate, parent material and time spans to test the following hypotheses: i) there is a tradeoff between the resistance and resilience of key soil microbial response variables, ii) this tradeoff is related to the relationship of soil microbial resistance and resilience to soil resources, iii) resources change predictably during different primary plant chronosequences, and iv) if the first three hypotheses hold and are consistent for all three chronosequences, then soil microbial resistance and resilience should change predictably across different chronosequences. Results showed that although there was a tradeoff between resistance and resilience, the role of resources in determining this was unclear. Within each chronosequence, resources that were positively related to resistance were negatively related to resilience and vice versa, consistent with our second hypothesis. However, the direction and strength of correlations between stability and soil resources depended strongly on which soil microbial response variable was measured, and the chronosequence it was measured in. Total amounts of resources often showed consistent trends with ecosystem development for each chronosequence, but the way that resource quality changed varied between chronosequences. At least partly because of the variable nature of these relationships, the trajectory of resistance and resilience during ecosystem development varied considerably across chronosequences. Thus, although consistent trends were found within each chronosequence, the relationships between the stability of different soil microbial response variables, resources and ecosystem development depended strongly on which chronosequence was considered

Published in

2006, Volume: 112, number: 1, pages: 196-208

      SLU Authors

    • Wardle, David

      • Department of Forest Vegetation Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Forest Science

    Publication identifier


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