Globally consistent response of plant microbiome diversity across hosts and continents to soil nutrients and herbivores

Eric W. Seabloom*, Maria C. Caldeira, Kendi F. Davies, Linda Kinkel, Johannes M.H. Knops, Kimberly J. Komatsu, Andrew S. MacDougall, Georgiana May, Michael Millican, Joslin L. Moore, Luis I. Perez, Anita J. Porath-Krause, Sally A. Power, Suzanne M. Prober, Anita C. Risch, Carly Stevens, Elizabeth T. Borer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


All multicellular organisms host a diverse microbiome composed of microbial pathogens, mutualists, and commensals, and changes in microbiome diversity or composition can alter host fitness and function. Nonetheless, we lack a general understanding of the drivers of microbiome diversity, in part because it is regulated by concurrent processes spanning scales from global to local. Global-scale environmental gradients can determine variation in microbiome diversity among sites, however an individual host’s microbiome also may reflect its local micro-environment. We fill this knowledge gap by experimentally manipulating two potential mediators of plant microbiome diversity (soil nutrient supply and herbivore density) at 23 grassland sites spanning global-scale gradients in soil nutrients, climate, and plant biomass. Here we show that leaf-scale microbiome diversity in unmanipulated plots depended on the total microbiome diversity at each site, which was highest at sites with high soil nutrients and plant biomass. We also found that experimentally adding soil nutrients and excluding herbivores produced concordant results across sites, increasing microbiome diversity by increasing plant biomass, which created a shaded microclimate. This demonstration of consistent responses of microbiome diversity across a wide range of host species and environmental conditions suggests the possibility of a general, predictive understanding of microbiome diversity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3516
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


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