Response of recalcitrant soil substances to reduced N deposition in a spruce forest soil: integrating laccase-encoding genes and lignin decomposition

Susanne Theuerl, Nicole Dörr, Georg Guggenberger, Uwe Langer, Klaus Kaiser, Norbert Lamersdorf, François Buscot
FEMS Microbiology Ecology 2010 July 1, 73 (1): 166-77
A long-term field experiment conducted in a Norway spruce forest at Solling, Central Germany, was used to verify and compare the response of lignin-decomposing fungal communities in soils receiving current and preindustrial atmospheric nitrogen (N) input for 14.5 years. Therefore, we investigated the decomposition of lignin compounds in relation to phenol oxidase activity and the diversity of basidiomycetes containing laccase genes in organic and mineral horizons. Lignin-derived CuO oxidation products and enzyme activity decreased with soil depth, while the degree of oxidative transformation of lignin increased. These patterns did not change with reduced atmospheric N input, likely reflecting a lasting saturation in available N. The laccase gene diversity decreased with soil depth in spring. In autumn, this pattern was only found in the control plot, receiving current N input. Principal component analysis confirmed the depth profile and distinguished a response of the fungal community to reduced N deposition for most organic layers in spring and a roof effect for the Oe layer in autumn. These responses of the fungal community did not translate into changes in enzyme activity and lignin content and decomposition, suggesting that transformation processes in soils are well buffered despite the rapid response of the microbial community to environmental factors.

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