Interactive effects of C, N and P fertilization on soil microbial community structure and function in an Amazonian rain forest

Abstract : 1. Resource control over abundance, structure and functional diversity of soil microbial communities is a key determinant of soil processes and related ecosystem functioning. Copiotrophic organisms tend to be found in environments which are rich in nutrients, particularly carbon, in contrast to oligotrophs, which survive in much lower carbon concentrations. We hypothesized that microbial biomass, activity and community structure in nutrient-poor soils of an Amazonian rain forest are limited by multiple elements in interaction. We tested this hypothesis with a fertilization experiment by adding C (as cellulose), N (as urea) and P (as phosphate) in all possible combinations to a total of 40 plots of an undisturbed tropical forest in French Guiana. After 2years of fertilization, we measured a 47% higher biomass, a 21% increase in substrate-induced respiration rate and a 5-fold higher rate of decomposition of cellulose paper discs of soil microbial communities that grew in P-fertilized plots compared to plots without P fertilization. These responses were amplified with a simultaneous C fertilization suggesting P and C colimitation of soil micro-organisms at our study site. Moreover, P fertilization modified microbial community structure (PLFAs) to a more copiotrophic bacterial community indicated by a significant decrease in the Gram-positive:Gram-negative ratio. The Fungi:Bacteria ratio increased in N fertilized plots, suggesting that fungi are relatively more limited by N than bacteria. Changes in microbial community structure did not affect rates of general processes such as glucose mineralization and cellulose paper decomposition. In contrast, community level physiological profiles under P fertilization combined with either C or N fertilization or both differed strongly from all other treatments, indicating functionally different microbial communities. While P appears to be the most critical from the three major elements we manipulated, the strongest effects were observed in combination with either supplementary C or N addition in support of multiple element control on soil microbial functioning and community structure. We conclude that the soil microbial community in the studied tropical rain forest and the processes it drives is finely tuned by the relative availability in C, N and P. Any shifts in the relative abundance of these key elements may affect spatial and temporal heterogeneity in microbial community structure, their associated functions and the dynamics of C and nutrients in tropical ecosystems.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, September 23, 2015 - 8:49:04 PM
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Nicolas Fanin, Stephan Haettenschwiler, Heidy Schimann, Nathalie Fromin. Interactive effects of C, N and P fertilization on soil microbial community structure and function in an Amazonian rain forest. Functional Ecology, Wiley, 2015, 29 (1), pp.140-150. ⟨10.1111/1365-2435.12329⟩. ⟨hal-01204229⟩

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