Soil pH is equally important as salinity in shaping bacterial communities in saline soils under halophytic vegetation
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While saline soils account for 6.5% of the total land area globally, it comprises about 70% of the area in northwestern China. Microbiota in these saline soils are particularly important because they are critical to maintaining ecosystem services. However, little is known about the microbial diversity and community composition in saline soils. To investigate the distribution patterns and edaphic determinants of bacterial communities in saline soils, we collected soil samples across the hypersaline Ebinur Lake shoreline in northwestern China and assessed soil bacterial communities using bar-coded pyrosequencing. Bacterial communities were diverse, and the dominant phyla (>5% of all sequences) across all soil samples were Gammaproteobacteria, Actinobacteria, Firmicutes, Alphaproteobacteria, Bacteroidetes and Betaproteobacteria. These dominant phyla made a significant (P < 0.05) contribution to community structure variations between soils. Halomonas, Smithella, Pseudomonas and Comamonas were the indicator taxa across the salinity gradient. Bacterial community composition showed significant (P < 0.05) correlations with salt content and soil pH. Indeed, bacterial phylotype richness and phylogenetic diversity were also higher in soils with middle-level salt rates, and were significantly (P < 0.05) correlated with salt content and soil pH. Overall, our results show that both salinity and pH are the determinants of bacterial communities in saline soils in northwest China.
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