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Soil Microbial Responses to Different Precipitation Regimes Across a Southwestern United States Elevation Gradient

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Soil organic carbon (SOC) is a critical component of the global carbon (C) cycle, accounting for more C than the biotic and atmospheric pools combined. Microbes play an important role in soil C cycling, with abiotic conditions such as soil

Soil organic carbon (SOC) is a critical component of the global carbon (C) cycle, accounting for more C than the biotic and atmospheric pools combined. Microbes play an important role in soil C cycling, with abiotic conditions such as soil moisture and temperature governing microbial activity and subsequent soil C processes. Predictions for future climate include warmer temperatures and altered precipitation regimes, suggesting impacts on future soil C cycling. However, it is uncertain how soil microbial communities and subsequent soil organic carbon pools will respond to these changes, particularly in dryland ecosystems. A knowledge gap exists in soil microbial community responses to short- versus long-term precipitation alteration in dryland systems. Assessing soil C cycle processes and microbial community responses under current and altered precipitation patterns will aid in understanding how C pools and cycling might be altered by climate change. This study investigates how soil microbial communities are influenced by established climate regimes and extreme changes in short-term precipitation patterns across a 1000 m elevation gradient in northern Arizona, where precipitation increases with elevation. Precipitation was manipulated (50% addition and 50% exclusion of ambient rainfall) for two summer rainy seasons at five sites across the elevation gradient. In situ and ex situ soil CO2 flux, microbial biomass C, extracellular enzyme activity, and SOC were measured in precipitation treatments in all sites. Soil CO2 flux, microbial biomass C, extracellular enzyme activity, and SOC were highest at the three highest elevation sites compared to the two lowest elevation sites. Within sites, precipitation treatments did not change microbial biomass C, extracellular enzyme activity, and SOC. Soil CO2 flux was greater under precipitation addition treatments than exclusion treatments at both the highest elevation site and second lowest elevation site. Ex situ respiration differed among the precipitation treatments only at the lowest elevation site, where respiration was enhanced in the precipitation addition plots. These results suggest soil C cycling will respond to long-term changes in precipitation, but pools and fluxes of carbon will likely show site-specific sensitivities to short-term precipitation patterns that are also expected with climate change.

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2019

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Sources and Decomposition of Dissolved Organic Matter in Desert Streams

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Dissolved organic matter (DOM) is an important part of aquatic foodwebs because it contains carbon, nitrogen, and other elements required by heterotrophic organisms. It has many sources that determine its molecular composition, nutrient content, and biological lability and in turn,

Dissolved organic matter (DOM) is an important part of aquatic foodwebs because it contains carbon, nitrogen, and other elements required by heterotrophic organisms. It has many sources that determine its molecular composition, nutrient content, and biological lability and in turn, influence whether it is retained and processed in the stream reach or exported downstream. I examined the composition of DOM from vascular wetland plants, filamentous algae, and riparian tree leaf litter in Sonoran Desert streams and its decomposition by stream microbes. I used a combination of field observations, in-situ experiments, and a manipulative laboratory incubation to test (1) how dominant primary producers influence DOM chemical composition and ecosystem metabolism at the reach scale and (2) how DOM composition and nitrogen (N) content control microbial decomposition and stream uptake of DOM. I found that differences in streamwater DOM composition between two distinct reaches of Sycamore Creek did not affect in-situ stream respiration and gross primary production rates. Stream sediment microbial respiration rates did not differ significantly when incubated in the laboratory with DOM from wetland plants, algae, and leaf litter, thus all sources were similarly labile. However, whole-stream uptake of DOM increased from leaf to algal to wetland plant leachate. Desert streams have the potential to process DOM from leaf, wetland, and algal sources, though algal and wetland DOM, due to their more labile composition, can be more readily retained and mineralized.

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2018

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The effects of non-native and native anuran tadpoles on aquatic ecosystem processes

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Non-native consumers can significantly alter processes at the population, community, and ecosystem level, and they are a major concern in many aquatic systems. Although the community-level effects of non-native anuran tadpoles are well understood, their ecosystem-level effects have been less

Non-native consumers can significantly alter processes at the population, community, and ecosystem level, and they are a major concern in many aquatic systems. Although the community-level effects of non-native anuran tadpoles are well understood, their ecosystem-level effects have been less studied. Here, I tested the hypothesis that natural densities of non-native bullfrog tadpoles (Lithobates catesbeianus) and native Woodhouse's toad tadpoles (Anaxyrus woodhousii) have dissimilar effects on aquatic ecosystem processes because of differences in grazing and nutrient recycling (excretion and egestion). I measured bullfrog and Woodhouse's carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus nutrient recycling rates. Then, I determined the impact of tadpole grazing on periphyton biomass (chlorophyll a) during a 39-day mesocosm experiment. Using the same experiment, I also quantified the effect of tadpole grazing and nutrient excretion on periphyton net primary production (NPP). Lastly I measured how dissolved and particulate nutrient concentrations and respiration rates changed in the presence of the two tadpole species. Per unit biomass, I found that bullfrog and Woodhouse's tadpoles excreted nitrogen and phosphorus at similar rates, though Woodhouse's tadpoles egested more carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus. However, bullfrogs recycled nutrients at higher N:C and N:P ratios. Tadpole excretion did not cause a detectable change in dissolved nutrient concentrations. However, the percent phosphorus in mesocosm detritus was significantly higher in both tadpole treatments, compared to a tadpole-free control. Neither tadpole species decreased periphyton biomass through grazing, although bullfrog nutrient excretion increased areal NPP. This result was due to higher biomass, not higher biomass-specific productivity. Woodhouse's tadpoles significantly decreased respiration in the mesocosm detritus, while bullfrog tadpoles had no effect. This research highlights functional differences between species by showing non-native bullfrog tadpoles and native Woodhouse's tadpoles may have different effects on arid, aquatic ecosystems. Specifically, it indicates bullfrog introductions may alter primary productivity and particulate nutrient dynamics.

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2015