Effects of vegetation on soil cyanobacterial communities through time and space

Concha Cano-Díaz*, Fernando T. Maestre, Juntao Wang, Jing Li, Brajesh K. Singh, Victoria Ochoa, Beatriz Gozalo, Manuel Delgado-Baquerizo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Photoautotrophic soil cyanobacteria play essential ecological roles and are known to exhibit large changes in their diversity and abundance throughout early succession. However, much less is known about how and why soil cyanobacterial communities change as soil develops over centuries and millennia, and the effects that vegetation have on such communities. We combined an extensive field survey, including 16 global soil chronosequences across contrasting ecosystems (from deserts to tropical forests), with molecular analyses to investigate how the diversity and abundance of photosynthetic and nonphotosynthetic soil cyanobacteria are affected by vegetation change during soil development, over time periods from hundreds to thousands of years. We show that, in most chronosequences, the abundance, species richness and community composition of soil cyanobacteria are relatively stable as soil develops (from centuries to millennia). Regardless of soil age, forest chronosequences were consistently dominated by nonphotosynthetic cyanobacteria (Vampirovibrionia), while grasslands and shrublands were dominated by photosynthetic cyanobacteria. Chronosequences undergoing drastic vegetation shifts (e.g. transitions from grasslands to forests) experienced significant changes in the composition of soil cyanobacterial communities. Our results advance our understanding of the ecology of cyanobacterial classes, and of the understudied nonphotosynthetic cyanobacteria in particular, and highlight the key role of vegetation as a major driver of their temporal dynamics as soil develops.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)435-448
Number of pages14
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2022


  • 16S amplicon sequencing
  • abundance
  • Cyanobacteria
  • Illumina sequencing
  • nonphotosynthetic cyanobacteria
  • richness
  • soil chronosequence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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