Disturbace events affect interactions amoung four different hydrolytic enzymes in arid soils

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Daniel Warnock, Marcy E Litvak and Robert L Sinsabaugh, University of New Mexico Main Campus, Albuquerque, NM, United States
Global change processes are significantly altering key ecosystem processes in arid ecosystems. Such phenomena are also likely to influence the functional behaviors of resident soil microbial communities, and the magnitude of biogeochemical processes, including, soil organic matter turnover, soil nutrient cycling and soil carbon storage. To assess the aggregate influences of tree mortality, woody plant encroachment, fire, and drought, on soil microbial community activity and functionality, we collected soil samples from beneath plant canopies, and from adjacent bare soils. We sampled from two different piñon-juniper woodland sites. One had many dead piñons, while the other did not, a burned and an unburned grassland, a shrub site, a shrub/grass ecotone, and a juniper savannah. We analyzed eleven soil physicochemical properties, none of which showed any significant trends across our different sampling locations, fungal biomass, and the activities of alanine aminopeptidase, alkaline phosphatase, β-D-glucosidase, and β-N-acetyl glucosaminidase (NAGase). One-wayANOVA results showed that enzyme activity patterns were largely consistent across field sites, while multivariate analyses showed a variety of interactive responses by individual enzymes,with respect to disturbance events. For example, at the burned grassland, all four enzymes activities were strongly correlated, while at the unburned grassland, relationships between peptidase:NAGase and peptidase:β-D-glucosidase were weak, with both R2 ≤ 0.08. Additionally in the shrub-grass ecotone, the correlation among enzyme activities and soil nutrient availabilities were up to 8x stronger than those observed at either grassland site. These results show that disturbance alters the number of functional dimensions needed to describe enzymatic C, N and P acquisition, which may be an indication of shifts in microbial community organization.