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Microbial Response to Drought in a Texas Highplains Shortgrass Prairie

By D. W. Thayer


The population of the microbial flora of a mixed blue gramma grass (Bouteloua gracilis H. B. K.) and prickly pear (Opuntia polyacantha Haw.) prairie near Amarillo, Texas, was studied during 1971 after a severe drought. Bacteria, fungi, and algae were estimated by plate count and terminal dilution procedures. Rates of grass and paper decomposition were determined. The microbial flora of soil associated with bovine-grazed grass did not differ significantly from the flora associated with ungrazed grass, either qualitatively or quantitatively. During drought, a greater number of fungi were found in soil associated with prickly pear than in that associated with blue gramma grass. The microbial biomass decreased one full log between the surface and a depth of 50 cm, and the percentage of anaerobes increased with depth. The maximum numbers of fungi and algae detected were 8 × 10(5) and 6 × 10(4)/g respectively. A linear relationship existed between the microbial biomass and soil moisture. The maximum number of aerobic, heterotrophic bacteria detected was 1.5 × 10(8) viable cells per g of soil

Topics: Environmental Microbiology and Ecology
Year: 1974
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Provided by: PubMed Central
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