The incorporation of fungal to bacterial ratios and plant ecosystem effect traits into a state-and-transition model of land-use change in semi-arid grasslands

Megan Rae Wong, John W Morgan, Nathan K Wong, Timothy Cavagnaro

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6 Citations (Scopus)


Feedbacks between plants, microbes and their growth traits are important in the maintenance of nutrient cycling functions. Despite this, there is little understanding of the role of these relationships in the transitions between alternate vegetation states in semi-arid and arid lands. We investigated the relationships between vegetation, soil nutrients and soil microbes across grasslands and agricultural fields described within an existing conceptual state-and-transition model of agricultural de-intensification in the semi-arid Riverine Plains grasslands of south-eastern Australia. Sites represented the proposed transition from annual exotic pastures to native perennial grasslands with agricultural de-intensification. Microbial community composition was assessed using phospholipid fatty acid analysis (PLFA).
The native grassland state and the native pasture state were characterized by a higher fungal to bacterial ratio (F:B). The native grassland state had a slightly lower bacterial PLFA biomass whilst the native pasture state had a slightly higher fungal PLFA biomass, although these differences were non-significant. Only the recently cultivated, heavily grazed state was characterized by high soil nutrient availability (soil P and K) and leaf traits indicating rapid growth and resource utilization (high SLA, low LDMC). Thus, the association of these ecosystem properties with a lower F:B was not as close as expected. States with a higher F:B were not characterized by higher total soil C or C:N as hypothesized.
This study further extends our knowledge of the association between fungal dominance and agricultural de-intensification to a semi-arid system with relatively old, nutrient poor soils. It highlights the need for a better understanding of the mechanistics behind this association and the implications for C cycling and storage in such systems
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-19
Number of pages9
JournalAgriculture, Ecosystems and Environment
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Bacteria
  • Fungi
  • Leaf traits
  • Land-use change
  • Soil microbial communities

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