Divergent responses of bacterial activity, structure, and co-occurrence patterns to long-term unbalanced fertilization without nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium in a cultivated vertisol

  • Lei Ma
  • Bingzi ZhaoEmail author
  • Zhibin Guo
  • Daozhong Wang
  • Dandan Li
  • Jisheng Xu
  • Zengqiang Li
  • Jiabao Zhang
Research Article


Unbalanced fertilization lacking nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), or potassium (K) is a worldwide phenomenon; however, whether they affect bacterial community composition and intraspecific interactions in a similar pattern and how they affect bacterial activity are not systematically compared. Soils under different kinds of unbalanced fertilization in a 21-year field experiment were collected to investigate the variation in dehydrogenase activity (DHA), bacterial community diversity, structure, composition, and possible interactions. Compared to the balanced fertilization of NPK, the DHA from unbalanced fertilization of NP, PK, and NK was 8.70, 11.59, and 14.17% lower, respectively, and from the unfertilized treatment (Nil) was 13.41% lower; however, the Shannon index from NP, PK, and Nil was 4.48–7.21% higher and from NK was 3.95% lower. Based on principal coordinate analyses (PCoA), bacterial community structure was separated by N application or not along PCo1 and was further separated by P application or not along PCo2, indicating a more influence by N deficiency. Moreover, the structure was mainly determined by soil pH, soil organic carbon (SOC), and total phosphorus (TP). The network complexity using co-occurrence analysis followed the order NP > NPK > PK > NK > Nil, indicating a more influence by P deficiency on intraspecific interactions. Structural equation modeling (SEM) revealed that the reduced DHA in NP was mainly regulated by the decreased SOC and increased Shannon index, in PK by the decreased SOC and increased Shannon index and pH, and in NK by the decreased SOC and TP and increased PCo2. The significantly lower abundance of Bacteroidetes and Chitinophagaceae in NK may also contribute to the reduced DHA. Our results imply that N deficiency had the greatest impact on bacterial community structure and composition, P deficiency had the greatest impact on network construction and bacterial activity, and K deficiency has minimal effect. Our results also suggest that main factors regulating the variation in soil functions may vary among different nutrient deficiencies.


Unbalanced fertilization Long-term experiment Dehydrogenase activity Bacterial community Co-occurrence pattern Structural equation modeling 


Authors’ contributions

LM and BZ contributed to the design and implementation of the research and participated in drafting the manuscript. LM collected and analyzed the soil samples. ZG and DW contributed to the management and maintenance of long-term field experiment. DL, JX, ZL, and JZ revised the manuscript.

Funding information

Funding for the work was provided by the National Key R&D Program of China (2016YFD0300802, 2016YFD0200107) and the earmarked fund for the China Agriculture Research System (CARS-03).

Supplementary material

11356_2019_4839_MOESM1_ESM.doc (118 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 118 kb)
11356_2019_4839_MOESM2_ESM.xls (488 kb)
ESM 2 (XLS 487 kb)


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Copyright information

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

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lei Ma
    • 1
    • 2
  • Bingzi Zhao
    • 1
    Email author
  • Zhibin Guo
    • 3
  • Daozhong Wang
    • 3
  • Dandan Li
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jisheng Xu
    • 1
  • Zengqiang Li
    • 1
  • Jiabao Zhang
    • 1
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Soil and Sustainable Agriculture, Institute of Soil ScienceChinese Academy of SciencesNanjingChina
  2. 2.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Soil and Fertilizer Research InstituteAnhui Academy of Agricultural SciencesHefeiChina

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