Impact of soil solarization on the ciliate community structure of a greenhouse soil

<div><p></p><p>Soil solarization is an ecologically friendly method of controlling various plant pathogens and pests, but also affects non-pathogenic members of the soil biota. Here, we studied the impact of soil solarization on the community structure of soil ciliates using a culture-independent molecular approach, namely denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) of targeted 18S rRNA gene fragments. Greenhouse soil with added organic fertilizers was solarized for 33 days at an average temperature of 47–48°C. Solarization caused a drastic change in the ciliate community. The variation between replicates was large, which suggested that the distribution of ciliates was spatially heterogeneous in the soil, probably due to their decreased numbers. In contrast, non-solarized soil had a stable and homogeneous ciliate community during the experimental period. In solarized soil, most of the original ciliate community recovered 76 days after solarization. Sequence analysis of DGGE fragments indicated that both r-selected and K-selected species of ciliates were affected by solarization but recovered with time after solarization. Our results demonstrated both the vulnerability and resilience of the ciliate community to soil solarization and also the utility of using molecular-based analysis of ciliate communities as bioindicators of soil stress caused by solarization.</p></div>