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Keywords:

  • Birch effect;
  • drying-rewetting;
  • historical legacy;
  • microbial life history;
  • moisture niche;
  • moisture stress;
  • precipitation manipulation;
  • rainfall pulses;
  • rainfall timing;
  • tallgrass prairie

Abstract

The timing and magnitude of rainfall events are expected to change in future decades, resulting in longer drought periods and larger rainfall events. Although microbial community composition and function are both sensitive to changes in rainfall, it is unclear whether this is because taxa adopt strategies that maximise fitness under new regimes. We assessed whether bacteria exhibited phylogenetically conserved ecological strategies in response to drying-rewetting, and whether these strategies were altered by historical exposure to experimentally intensified rainfall patterns. By clustering relative abundance patterns, we identified three discrete ecological strategies and found that tolerance to drying-rewetting increased with exposure to intensified rainfall patterns. Changes in strategy were primarily due to changes in community composition, but also to strategy shifts within taxa. These moisture regime-selected ecological strategies may be predictable from disturbance history, and are likely to be linked to traits that influence the functional potential of microbial communities.