The use of co-occurrence patterns to investigate interactions between micro-organisms has provided novel insight into organismal interactions within microbial communities. However, anthropogenic impacts on microbial co-occurrence patterns and ecosystem function remain an important gap in our ecological knowledge. In a northern hardwood forest ecosystem located in Michigan, USA, 20 years of experimentally increased atmospheric N deposition has reduced forest floor decay and increased soil C storage. This ecosystem-level response occurred concomitantly with compositional changes in saprophytic fungi and bacteria. Here, we investigated the influence of experimental N deposition on biotic interactions among forest floor bacterial assemblages by employing phylogenetic and molecular ecological network analysis. When compared to the ambient treatment, the forest floor bacterial community under experimental N deposition was less rich, more phylogenetically dispersed and exhibited a more clustered co-occurrence network topology. Together, our observations reveal the presence of increased biotic interactions among saprotrophic bacterial assemblages under future rates of N deposition. Moreover, they support the hypothesis that nearly two decades of experimental N deposition can modify the organization of microbial communities and provide further insight into why anthropogenic N deposition has reduced decomposition, increased soil C storage and accelerated phenolic DOC production in our field experiment. © 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Journal: Molecular ecology