Rodríguez, A., Ibáñez, M., Bol, R., Brüggemann, N., Lobo, A., Jimenez, J. J., Ruess, L., & Sebastià, M.-T. (2022). Fairy ring-induced soil potassium depletion gradients reshape microbial community composition in a montane grassland. European Journal of Soil Science, 73(3), e13239. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1111/ejss.13239
Fairy rings promoting circular greening belts in the vegetation can shape soil microbial communities by altering soil conditions. Knowledge about soil variables involved in this process is incomplete. We characterised the soil microbial communities of six fairy rings in a montane grassland using phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) profiling, and studied if changes in soil properties corresponded to changes in soil microbial PLFA patterns. Exchangeable potassium (K) decreased inside the current rings, while soil moisture increased in the zones where the greening belts were two years before sampling (R2015). Fairy ring associated changes in PLFA composition were highly related to soil K. Gram-negative bacteria were associated with the zones outside the ring with the highest K content, whereas Gram-positive bacteria proportions increased inside the ring-affected zones. An environmental stress indicator, the iso to anteiso ratio of PLFA 17:0, decreased in the R2015 zones, coinciding with the highest soil moisture contents. Our findings highlight the unreported importance of soil K in fairy ring dynamics affecting microbial communities. This common omission could lead to incorrect conclusions. Hence, the effects of fairy rings on soil should be further tested.