Canopy structural alterations to nitrogen functions of the soil microbial community in a Quercus virginiana forest
Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Forest canopy structure controls the timing, amount and chemical character of precipitation supply to soils through interception and drainage along crown surfaces. Yet, few studies have examined forest canopy structural connections to soil microbial communities (SMCs), and none have measured how this affects SMC N functions. The maritime Quercus virginiana Mill. (southern live oak) forests of St Catherine’s Island, GA, USA provide an ideal opportunity to examine canopy structural alterations to SMCs and their functioning, as their throughfall varies substantially across space due to dense Tillandsia usneoides L. (spanish moss) mats bestrewn throughout. To examine the impact of throughfall variability on SMC N functions, we examined points along the canopy coverage continuum: large canopy gaps (0%), bare canopy (50-60%), and canopy of heavy T. usneoides coverage (>=85%). Five sites beneath each of the canopy cover types were monitored for throughfall water/ions and soil leachates chemistry for one storm each month over the growing period (7 months, Mar-2014 to Sep-2014) to compare with soil chemistry and SMC communities sampled every two months throughout that same period (Mar, May, Jul, Sep). DGGE and QPCR analysis of the N functioning genes (NFGs) to characterize the ammonia oxidizing bacterial (AOB-amoA), archaea (AOA-amoA), and ammonification (chiA) communities were used to determine the nitrification and decomposition potential of these microbial communities. PRS™-probes (Western Ag Innovations Inc., Saskatoon, Canada) were then used to determine the availability of NO3-N and NH4+N in the soils over a 6-week period to evaluate whether the differing NFG abundance and community structures resulted in altered N cycling.