Climate warming is known to impact ecosystem composition and functioning. However, it remains largely unclear how soil microbial communities respond to long-term, moderate warming. In this study, we used Illumina sequencing and microarrays (GeoChip 5.0) to analyze taxonomic and functional gene compositions of the soil microbial community after 14 years of warming (at 0.8–1.0 °C for 10 years and then 1.5–2.0 °C for 4 years) in a Californian grassland. Long-term warming had no detectable effect on the taxonomic composition of soil bacterial community, nor on any plant or abiotic soil variables. In contrast, functional gene compositions differed between warming and control for bacterial, archaeal, and fungal communities. Functional genes associated with labile carbon (C) degradation increased in relative abundance in the warming treatment, whereas those associated with recalcitrant C degradation decreased. A number of functional genes associated with nitrogen (N) cycling (e.g., denitrifying genes encoding nitrate-, nitrite-, and nitrous oxidereductases) decreased, whereas nifH gene encoding nitrogenase increased in the warming treatment. These results suggest that microbial functional potentials are more sensitive to long-term moderate warming than the taxonomic composition of microbial community.
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