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Resistance and Resilience of Soil Nitrogen Cycling to Drought and Heat Stress in Rehabilitated Urban Soils

Abstract : In the context of climate change and biodiversity loss, rehabilitation of degraded urban soils is a means of limiting artificialization of terrestrial ecosystems and preventing further degradation of soils. Ecological rehabilitation approaches are available to reinitiate soil functions and enhance plant development. However, little is known about the long-term stability of rehabilitated soils in terms of soil functions when further natural or anthropogenic perturbations occur. Based on rehabilitated urban soils, the present study sought to evaluate the resistance and resilience of soil functions linked to carbon cycling and phosphate dynamics in addition to nitrogen cycling and related microbial communities after a heat and drought stress. A laboratory experiment was conducted in microcosms under controlled temperature conditions, with four contrasted soils collected from a rehabilitated urban brownfield; an initial, non-rehabilitated soil (IS), a technosol with a high organic matter level (HO), and two technosols with less organic matter (LO1 and LO2), together with their respective controls (no stress). Changes in potential denitrification (PDR), nitrification (PNR) rates, and their interactive relationships with soil microbial activities and soil physicochemical properties were determined following a combined heat (40°C) and drought stress period of 21 days. Measurements were carried out immediately after the stress (resistance), and then also 5, 30, and 92 days after soil rewetting at 60% water holding capacity (resilience). Microbial activities involved in soil functions such as carbon cycling and phosphate dynamics proved to be of low resistance in all soils except for IS; however, they were resilient and recovered rapidly after rewetting. On the other hand, the microbial activities and gene abundances that were measured in relation to nitrogen cycling processes showed that for denitrification, activities were more rapidly resilient than gene abundances whereas for nitrification the activities and gene abundances were resilient in the same way. Results suggest that, unless the soils contain high amounts of organic matter, microbial communities in imported soils can be more vulnerable to environmental pressures such as drought and heat than communities already present. This should be considered when rehabilitating degraded soils.
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Mehdi Fikri, Catherine Joulian, Mikael Motelica-Heino, Marie-Paule Norini, Jennifer Hellal. Resistance and Resilience of Soil Nitrogen Cycling to Drought and Heat Stress in Rehabilitated Urban Soils. Frontiers in Microbiology, Frontiers Media, 2021, 12, ⟨10.3389/fmicb.2021.727468⟩. ⟨insu-03513861⟩

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