Microbial community structure and oxidative enzyme activity in nitrogen-amended north temperate forest soils

M Gallo, R Amonette, C Lauber, R L Sinsabaugh, D R Zak
Microbial Ecology 2004, 48 (2): 218-29
Large regions of temperate forest are subject to elevated atmospheric nitrogen (N) deposition which can affect soil organic matter dynamics by altering mass loss rates, soil respiration, and dissolved organic matter production. At present there is no general model that links these responses to changes in the organization and operation of microbial decomposer communities. Toward that end, we studied the response of litter and soil microbial communities to high levels of N amendment (30 and 80 kg ha(-1) yr(-1)) in three types of northern temperate forest: sugar maple/basswood (SMBW), sugar maple/red oak (SMRO), and white oak/black oak (WOBO). We measured the activity of extracellular enzymes (EEA) involved directly in the oxidation of lignin and humus (phenol oxidase, peroxidase), and indirectly, through the production of hydrogen peroxide (glucose oxidase, glyoxal oxidase). Community composition was analyzed by extracting and quantifying phospholipid fatty acids (PLFA) from soils. Litter EEA responses at SMBW sites diverged from those at oak-bearing sites (SMRO, BOWO), but the changes were not statistically significant. For soil, EEA responses were consistent across forests types: phenol oxidase and peroxidase activities declined as a function of N dose (33-73% and 5-41%, respectively, depending on forest type); glucose oxidase and glyoxal oxidase activities increased (200-400% and 150-300%, respectively, depending on forest type). Principal component analysis (PCA) ordinated forest types and treatment responses along two axes; factor 1 (44% of variance) was associated with phenol oxidase and peroxidase activities, factor 2 (31%) with glucose oxidase. Microbial biomass did not respond to N treatment, but nine of the 23 PLFA that formed >1 mol% of total biomass showed statistically significant treatment responses. PCA ordinated forest types and treatment responses along three axes (36%, 26%, 12% of variance). EEA factors 1 and 2 correlated negatively with PLFA factor 1 ( r = -0.20 and -0.35, respectively, n = 108) and positively with PLFA factor 3 ( r = +0.36 and +0.20, respectively, n = 108). In general, EEA responses were more strongly tied to changes in bacterial PLFA than to changes in fungal PLFA. Collectively, our data suggests that N inhibition of oxidative activity involves more than the repression of ligninase expression by white-rot basidiomycetes.

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