It is hard to assess experimentally the importance of microbial diversity in soil for the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems. An approach that is often used to make such assessment is the so-called dilution method. This method is based on the assumption that the biodiversity of the microbial community is reduced after dilution of a soil suspension and that the reduced diversity persists after incubation of more or less diluted inocula in soil. However, little is known about how the communities develop in soil after inoculation. In this study, serial dilutions of a soil suspension were made and reinoculated into the original soil previously sterilized by gamma irradiation. We determined the structure of the microbial communities in the suspensions and in the inoculated soils using 454-pyrosequencing of 16S rRNA genes. Upon dilution, several diversity indices showed that, indeed, the diversity of the bacterial communities in the suspensions decreased dramatically, with Proteobacteria as the dominant phylum of bacteria detected in all dilutions. The structure of the microbial community was changed considerably in soil, with Proteobacteria, Bacteroidetes, and Verrucomicrobia as the dominant groups in most diluted samples, indicating the importance of soil-related mechanisms operating in the assembly of the communities. We found unique operational taxonomic units (OTUs) even in the highest dilution in both the suspensions and the incubated soil samples. We conclude that the dilution approach reduces the diversity of microbial communities in soil samples but that it does not allow accurate predictions of the community assemblage during incubation of (diluted) suspensions in soil.
Yan, Y., Kuramae, E. E., Klinkhamer, P. G. L., & Van Veen, J. A. (2015). Revisiting the dilution procedure used to manipulate microbial biodiversity in terrestrial systems revisited. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 81(13), 4246-4252. https://doi.org/10.1128/AEM.00958-15