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Shifts in rhizosphere microbial communities and enzyme activity of Poa alpina across an alpine chronosequence

Tscherko, D., Hammesfahr, U., Marx, M. C. and Kandeler, E. (2003) Shifts in rhizosphere microbial communities and enzyme activity of Poa alpina across an alpine chronosequence. In: 2nd Enzymes in the Environment Conference, Prague, CZECH REPUBLIC, pp. 1685-1698,

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.soilbio.2004.07.004


This study quantifies the influence of Poa alpina on the soil microbial community in primary succession of alpine ecosystems, and whether these effects are controlled by the successional stage. Four successional sites representative of four stages of grassland development (initial, 4 years (non-vegetated); pioneer, 20 years; transition, 75 years; mature, 9500 years old) on the Rotmoos glacier foreland, Austria, were sampled. The size, composition and activity of the microbial community in the rhizosphere and bulk soil were characterized using the chloroform-fumigation extraction procedure, phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) analysis and measurements of the enzymes beta-glucosidase, beta-xylosidase, N-acetyl-beta-glucosaminidase, leucine aminopeptidase, acid phosphatase and sulfatase. The interplay between the host plant and the successional stage was quantified using principal component (PCA) and multidimensional scaling analyses. Correlation analyses were applied to evaluate the relationship between soil factors (C-org, N-t, C/N ratio, pH, ammonium, phosphorus, potassium) and microbial properties in the bulk soil. In the pioneer stage microbial colonization of the rhizosphere of P. alpina was dependent on the reservoir of microbial species in the bulk soil. As a consequence, the rhizosphere and bulk soil were similar in microbial biomass (ninhydrin-reactive nitrogen (NHR-N)), community composition (PLFA), and enzyme activity. In the transition and mature grassland stage, more benign soil conditions stimulated microbial growth (NHR-N, total amount of PLFA, bacterial PLFA, Gram-positive bacteria, Gram-negative bacteria), and microbial diversity (Shannon index H) in the rhizosphere either directly or indirectly through enhanced carbon allocation. In the same period, the rhizosphere microflora shifted from a G(-) to a more G(+), and from a fungal to a more bacteria-dominated community. Rhizosphere beta-xylosidase, N-acetyl-beta-glucosaminidase, and sulfatase activity peaked in the mature grassland soil, whereas rhizosphere leucine aminopeptidase, beta-glucosidase, and phosphatase activity were highest in the transition stage, probably because of enhanced carbon and nutrient allocation into the rhizosphere due to better growth conditions. Soil organic matter appeared to be the most important driver of microbial colonization in the bulk soil. The decrease in soil pH and soil C/N ratio mediated the shifts in the soil microbial community composition (bacPLFA, bacPLFA/fungPLFA, G(-), G(+)/G(-)). The activities of beta-glucosidase, beta-xylosidase and phosphatase were related to soil ammonium and phosphorus, indicating that higher decomposition rates enhanced the nutrient availability in the bulk soil. We conclude that the major determinants of the microllora vary along the successional gradient: in the pioneer stage the rhizosphere microflora was primarily determined by the harsh soil environment; under more favourable environmental conditions, however, the host plant selected for a specific microbial community that was related to the dynamic interplay between soil properties and carbon supply. (C) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Divisions:Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science
Interdisciplinary centres and themes > Soil Research Centre
ID Code:4160
Uncontrolled Keywords:primary succession glacier foreland rhizosphere phospholipid fatty acids microbial biomass enzyme activity fluorogenic substrate Shannon index Poa alpina
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Publisher:Pergamon-Elsevier Science Ltd

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