AIMS Microbiology, 2017, 3(3): 580-595. doi: 10.3934/microbiol.2017.3.580.

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The influence of flint stones on a soil microbial community in the northern Negev Desert

1 The Mina & Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan 5290002, Israel
2 School of Science and the Environment, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Corner Brook, NL A2H 5G4, Canada

In the Negev Desert ecosystems, flint-stone cover on slopes acts as a barrier against water flow. As a result, soil moisture increases and organic matter accumulates under the stone and in the immediate surroundings, both affecting the duration of soil microbial activity. On the other hand, during the dry season (characterized by approximately 210 dew nights), flint-stone cover plays an important role in the formation of dew, which eventually trickles down beneath the stone, correspondingly enhancing biological activity. The present study examined the possible role of flint stones as hotspots for soil microbial-community activity and diversity. The results were compared with those obtained from the adjacent stone-free soils in the open spaces (OS), which served as controls. Microbial activity (respiration and biomass) and functional diversity were determined by the MicroRespTM method. In addition, estimates of genetic diversity and viable counts of bacteria and fungi [colony-forming units (CFUs)] were obtained. The soil was significantly wetter and contained more organic matter beneath the flint stones (BFS). As hypothesized, biological activity was enhanced under the stones, as described by CO2 evolution, microbial-community biomass functional diversity, and fungal phylogenetic diversity. BFS environments favored a greater range of catabolic functions. Taxa generally known for their stress resilience were found in the OS habitats. The results of this study elucidate the importance of flint-stone cover to soil microbial biomass, community activity, and functional diversity in the northern Negev Desert.
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Keywords flint stone; microbial community; functional diversity; beneath-stone microbial activity; desert environment

Citation: Haggai Wasserstrom, Vered Elias Ben-Ezra, Chen Sherman, Adrian Unc, Yosef Steinberger. The influence of flint stones on a soil microbial community in the northern Negev Desert. AIMS Microbiology, 2017, 3(3): 580-595. doi: 10.3934/microbiol.2017.3.580

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