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Spatial patterns of soil microbial communities in a Norway spruce (Picea abies) plantation

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Simon Wilkinson


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The phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) profiles of soil microbial communities were determined in relation to the patterns of tree cover in a mature Norway spruce plantation. Replicate samples of the surface organic layers were taken close to the trunk, at 1 m and at 2 m (under the edge of the canopy) beneath five trees. Samples were analyzed for standard PLFAs to assess the initial composition of the microbial communities. Replicate samples were then incubated under constant or fluctuating moisture conditions for 30 d to test the hypothesis that the patterns of microbial community structure (or its physiological state) might be determined by biophysical conditions under the tree canopies. The PLFA profiles near the trunks and at 2 m were similar, but samples taken 1 m from the bases of the trees contained lower concentrations of polyunsaturated (fungal) and monounsaturated PLFAs, and higher concentrations of saturated PLFAs. These differences in PLFA profiles were maintained during laboratory incubation under a regime of drying and wetting cycles, but there was some evidence of convergence in community structure under constant moisture conditions resulting from significant increases and decreases in specific bacterial PLFA concentrations. There were no effects of either moisture treatment on fungal PLFA concentrations. It is concluded that variation in the soil biophysical environment beneath the tree canopies resulted in the differentiation of spatially defined bacterial communities that were tolerant of moisture stress. The anomaly that differences in community structure were largest at an intermediate position of 1 m between the trunk and below the canopy edge was not explained but may relate to tree root distribution.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Wilkinson SC; Anderson JM

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Microbial Ecology

Year: 2001

Volume: 42

Issue: 3

Pages: 248-255

Print publication date: 01/01/2001

ISSN (print): 0095-3628

ISSN (electronic): 1432-184X

Publisher: Springer


DOI: 10.1007/s00248-001-0006-z


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