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Soil pH, total phosphorus, climate and distance are the major factors influencing microbial activity at a
regional spatial scale

Haichuan Cao1,*, Ruirui Chen2,*, Libing Wang1,*, Lanlan Jiang1, Fen Yang3, Shixue Zheng1,
Gejiao Wang1 & Xiangui Lin2

Considering the extensive functional redundancy in microbial communities and great difficulty
in elucidating it based on taxonomic structure, studies on the biogeography of soil microbial
activity at large spatial scale are as important as microbial community structure. Eighty-four soil
samples were collected across a region from south to north China (about 1,000 km) to address the
questions if microbial activity displays biogeographic patterns and what are driving forces. These
samples represented different soil types, land use and climate. Redundancy analysis and nonmetric
multidimensional scaling clearly revealed that soil microbial activities showed distinct differentiation
at different sites over a regional spatial scale, which were strongly affected by soil pH, total P, rainfall,
temperature, soil type and location. In addition, microbial community structure was greatly influenced
by rainfall, location, temperature, soil pH and soil type and was correlated with microbial activity to
some extent. Our results suggest that microbial activities display a clear geographic pattern that is
greatly altered by geographic distance and reflected by climate, soil pH and total P over large spatial
scales. There are common (distance, climate, pH and soil type) but differentiated aspects (TP, SOC and
N) in the biogeography of soil microbial community structure and activity.



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