Biology and Fertility of Soils

, Volume 55, Issue 2, pp 121–134 | Cite as

Impact of long-term grazing exclusion on soil microbial community composition and nutrient availability

  • Zhe Wang
  • Qian Zhang
  • Christopher Staley
  • Hailong Gao
  • Satoshi Ishii
  • Xiaorong WeiEmail author
  • Jian Liu
  • Jimin Cheng
  • Mingde Hao
  • Michael J. Sadowsky
Original Paper


While grazing exclusion is thought to drive soil nutrient transport and cycling, and reduce soil compaction, its direct impact on microbial community composition remains unclear. In this study, we examined the impact of grazing exclusion on abundance and composition of soil microbial (bacterial, archaeal, and fungal) communities, especially those associated with nutrient cycling. We surveyed soil physicochemical properties and litter mass, at sites undergoing varying durations of grazing exclusion (0–34 years) in a semiarid grassland. Using next-generation amplicon sequencing, we further characterized variations in the composition and diversity of soil microbial communities associated with grazing exclusion and soil depths, as well as subsequent changes in physicochemical properties. Most soil physicochemical parameter values significantly increased as the result of long-term grazing exclusion, and these properties were associated with variation in composition and diversity of microbial communities. Notably, the relative abundances of microbial families associated with C cycling (e.g., Chitinophagaceae) increased with an increase in nutrient availability following grazing exclusion. The abundance of the archaeal ammonia-oxidizing Nitrososphaerae increased with decreasing concentration of ammonium among samples. Likewise, fungal communities were also associated with the shifts in nutrient concentrations, although the majority of fungi could not be classified to the species level. Nitrate concentration also played a critical role in shaping bacterial, archaeal, or fungal communities. Moreover, bacterial and archaeal communities had a greater mean Shannon index in 0–10-cm than those in 10–20-cm soil layer. Results of this study provide novel insights regarding how the length of grazing exclusion and soil depth influence nutrient gradients and microbial community composition associated with nutrient cycling.


Bacteria Fungi Next-generation amplicon sequencing Soil nutrients Exclusion-grazing 



abundance-based coverage estimate


Akaike’s information criterion


analysis of similarity


available potassium


available phosphorus


distance-based redundancy analysis


distance-based linear model


internal transcribed spacer region 1


linear discriminant analysis






operational taxonomic unit


organic carbon


principal coordination analysis


total nitrogen


total phosphorus



Sequence processing and analyses were performed, in part, using the resources of the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute.

Funding information

This study was finally supported by the National Key Research Program of China (2016YFC0500700), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41622105, 41571130082, and 41571296) and the Programs from Chinese Academy of Sciences (QYZDB-SSW-DQC039), and Northwest A&F University (2452017028).

Supplementary material

374_2018_1336_MOESM1_ESM.docx (2.2 mb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 2268 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zhe Wang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Qian Zhang
    • 3
  • Christopher Staley
    • 3
  • Hailong Gao
    • 1
  • Satoshi Ishii
    • 3
    • 4
  • Xiaorong Wei
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jian Liu
    • 1
  • Jimin Cheng
    • 1
  • Mingde Hao
    • 1
  • Michael J. Sadowsky
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Soil Erosion and Dryland Farming on the Loess PlateauNorthwest A&F UniversityYanglingChina
  2. 2.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.BioTechnology InstituteUniversity of MinnesotaSt. PaulUSA
  4. 4.Department of Soil, Water, and ClimateUniversity of MinnesotaSt. PaulUSA

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