The phylogenetic composition and structure of soil microbial communities shifts in response to elevated carbon dioxide

ISME J. 2012 Feb;6(2):259-72. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2011.99. Epub 2011 Jul 28.


One of the major factors associated with global change is the ever-increasing concentration of atmospheric CO(2). Although the stimulating effects of elevated CO(2) (eCO(2)) on plant growth and primary productivity have been established, its impacts on the diversity and function of soil microbial communities are poorly understood. In this study, phylogenetic microarrays (PhyloChip) were used to comprehensively survey the richness, composition and structure of soil microbial communities in a grassland experiment subjected to two CO(2) conditions (ambient, 368 p.p.m., versus elevated, 560 p.p.m.) for 10 years. The richness based on the detected number of operational taxonomic units (OTUs) significantly decreased under eCO(2). PhyloChip detected 2269 OTUs derived from 45 phyla (including two from Archaea), 55 classes, 99 orders, 164 families and 190 subfamilies. Also, the signal intensity of five phyla (Crenarchaeota, Chloroflexi, OP10, OP9/JS1, Verrucomicrobia) significantly decreased at eCO(2), and such significant effects of eCO(2) on microbial composition were also observed at the class or lower taxonomic levels for most abundant phyla, such as Proteobacteria, Firmicutes, Actinobacteria, Bacteroidetes and Acidobacteria, suggesting a shift in microbial community composition at eCO(2). Additionally, statistical analyses showed that the overall taxonomic structure of soil microbial communities was altered at eCO(2). Mantel tests indicated that such changes in species richness, composition and structure of soil microbial communities were closely correlated with soil and plant properties. This study provides insights into our understanding of shifts in the richness, composition and structure of soil microbial communities under eCO(2) and environmental factors shaping the microbial community structure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena*
  • Biodiversity*
  • Carbon Dioxide / metabolism*
  • Phylogeny*
  • Plants / chemistry
  • Soil / analysis
  • Soil Microbiology*


  • Soil
  • Carbon Dioxide