ISME J - (-) - [2021-07-28; online 2021-07-28]
Microbial communities play important roles in all ecosystems and yet a comprehensive understanding of the ecological processes governing the assembly of these communities is missing. To address the role of biotic interactions between microorganisms in assembly and for functioning of the soil microbiota, we used a top-down manipulation approach based on the removal of various populations in a natural soil microbial community. We hypothesized that removal of certain microbial groups will strongly affect the relative fitness of many others, therefore unraveling the contribution of biotic interactions in shaping the soil microbiome. Here we show that 39% of the dominant bacterial taxa across treatments were subjected to competitive interactions during soil recolonization, highlighting the importance of biotic interactions in the assembly of microbial communities in soil. Moreover, our approach allowed the identification of microbial community assembly rule as exemplified by the competitive exclusion between members of Bacillales and Proteobacteriales. Modified biotic interactions resulted in greater changes in activities related to N- than to C-cycling. Our approach can provide a new and promising avenue to study microbial interactions in complex ecosystems as well as the links between microbial community composition and ecosystem function.