Vertical distribution of microbial communities under the canopy of two legume bushes in the Tehuacán Desert, Mexico

Salvador Rodríguez-Zaragoza, Teresa González-Ruíz, Ernestina González-Lozano, Abraham Lozada-Rojas, Einav Mayzlish-Gati, Yosef Steinberger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Prosopis laevigata and Parkinsonia praecox are the most abundant perennial shrubs in the Tehuacán Desert, forming 'islands of fertility' that dominate the alluvial terraces. Both species exhibit very similar phenology, with the timing of litter foliage being the only difference between them. P. praecox litter occurs shortly after the rains, while P. laevigata maintains its leaves until the next wet season. As degradable organic matter (OM) is one of the leading factors determining soil biota composition and activity, because of the OM provided by littering, we expected that the vertical distribution of the microbial community in the vicinity of the root zone of P. praecox would be higher in comparison to P. laevigata. One soil sampling was performed; during the rainy season in August, soil samples were collected from a 0-50-cm depth at 10-cm intervals, in the vicinity of the root canopy of four individual plants of each species and the interspaces between them. Soil moisture, organic matter, and counts of bacteria and fungi under shrubs were found to decrease from the upper to deeper layers. Respiratory activity was higher in the deeper layers (p < 0.01) in all three sampling sites. Total bacterial, fungal, and heterotrophic diazotrophs were found to be significantly (p < 0.001) more numerous under shrubs than in the interspace soil. No nitrogen-fixing bacteria were isolated from interplant soils in comparison to the soil samples collected beneath the shrubs. Heterotrophic diazotrophs significantly (p < 0.01) reduced more acetylene under P. praecox (29.0 nmol/g soil) than under P. laevigata (20.1 nmol/g soil). Although the microbial numbers were unaffected by differences in plant phenology, greater nitrogenase activity under P. praecox may influence nitrogen distribution in this arid environment. Due to the fact that only one sampling was undertaken, this study elucidates the differences in the microbial community between the two shrubs, but the dynamics in the above community could not be shown.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)373-380
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Journal of Soil Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by CONACyT-SEMARNAT grant # C01-0790.


  • Desert soil system
  • Fertility islands
  • Heterotrophic diazotrophs
  • Parkinsonia praecox
  • Prosopis laevigata
  • Soil microbial communities


Dive into the research topics of 'Vertical distribution of microbial communities under the canopy of two legume bushes in the Tehuacán Desert, Mexico'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this