Does restoration of plant diversity trigger concomitant soil microbiome changes in dryland ecosystems?
Drylands are highly vulnerable to land degradation, and despite increasing efforts, restoration success remains low. Although often ignored in the design and deployment of management strategies, soil microbial communities might be critical for dryland restoration due to their central role in promoting soil stability, nutrient cycling and plant establishment. We collected soil samples from eight dryland restoration sites within RestoreNet, a restoration field trial network, and determined their soil microbiome using 16S rRNA (bacteria and archaea) and ITS (fungi) amplicon sequencing. Each previously degraded site was treated with monoculture (single species) and polyculture (multiple species) seedling plantings. Contrary to our initial expectations, we found that these different revegetation interventions did not trigger changes in microbial diversity, composition or relative abundance of functional groups across sites after 1 year of revegetation. Synthesis and applications. Considering the crucial role of soil micro-organisms in dryland ecosystem functions, our results suggest that site-specific targeted microbiome restoration should be considered to accelerate the establishment of desired microbial communities. Plant community-based restoration practices such as revegetation have a limited impact on soil micro-organisms in the short term.