Clay minerals, charcoal and metal oxides are essential parts of the soil matrix and strongly influence the formation of biogeochemical interfaces in soil. We investigated the role of these parental materials for the development of functional microbial guilds using the example of alkane-degrading bacteria harbouring the alkane monooxygenase gene (alkB) in artificial mixtures composed of different minerals and charcoal, sterile manure and a microbial inoculum extracted from an agricultural soil. We followed changes in abundance and community structure of alkane-degrading microbial communities after 3 and 12 months of soil maturation and in response to a subsequent 2-week plant litter addition. During maturation we observed an overall increasing divergence in community composition. The impact of metal oxides on alkane-degrading community structure increased during soil maturation, whereas the charcoal impact decreased from 3 to 12 months. Among the clay minerals illite influenced the community structure of alkB-harbouring bacteria significantly, but not montmorillonite. The litter application induced strong community shifts in soils, maturated for 12 months, towards functional guilds typical for younger maturation stages pointing to a resilience of the alkane-degradation function potentially fostered by an extant 'seed bank'.
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