Canopy position is a stronger determinant of bacterial community composition and diversity than environmental disturbance in the phyllosphere
The effect of rain on the phyllosphere community has not been extensively explored, especially in the context of spatial variation on the impact of rain throughout the tree canopy. We characterized the response of the phyllosphere bacterial community removed from leaf surfaces of the Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) to rain across different spatial locations of the canopy. We hypothesized that: (1) rain would lead to an initial decrease in phyllosphere bacterial diversity, followed by an increase in diversity on subsequent days, but that this effect would be minimized in the lower and interior portion of the canopy, and that (2) community beta dispersion of phyllosphere microorganisms would be lower following rain, and similarly contingent on canopy position. We used targeted next-generation sequencing of the V4 region of the bacterial 16S rRNA gene to characterize bacterial composition. We found higher bacterial richness in interior canopy and distinct composition across canopy positions. Further, the effect of rain on beta dispersion was contingent on canopy position: rain lowered dispersion in the upper canopy but increased it in the lower and interior canopy. Our results demonstrate that canopy structure should be considered when looking at the impact of rain on the collective phyllosphere community.