Functional profiles of soil microbial communities in second-growth Douglas-fir forests of the Pacific Northwest Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/tb09j918t

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  • Forests are one of the largest repositories of terrestrial C. Understanding factors that drive organic matter transformations and nutrient efflux from these systems is therefore highly important. Temperate forests are of particular significance due to the large fraction of C that is stored below ground in the soil. Characterizing nutrient transformations, especially for C and N, and factors that influence their mineralization is critical in managing these ecosystems sustainably. The objective of this study was to characterize the metabolic function of the soil microbial community as it relates to C and N cycling in managed second-growth Douglas-fir forests of the Pacific Northwest. In the first study, extracellular enzyme profiles were characterized and correlated with a wide range of environmental variables present at nine sites located in western Oregon and Washington. Enzyme profiles were also correlated with measures of microbial biomass and with C and N mineralization rates obtained from a two-month incubation. Sites varied significantly from one another in all enzymes. C-cycling enzymes were correlated with respired C, and N-cycling enzymes, in addition to phosphatase and oxidative enzymes, were correlated with released N. Enzyme profiles grouped similarly for sites of the same soil type. Abiotic factors such as CEC, EC, and cation concentrations were correlated strongly with many enzymes, suggesting that soil physical and chemical properties influence extracellular enzyme function. In the second study, a year-long soil microcosm incubation measured respired C as well as total released N: NO₃⁻, NH₄⁺, and dissolved organic N (DON). These cumulative mineralization measurements were fitted with kinetic models to characterize C and N cycling in the same nine soils. Mineralization rates, and their descriptive parameters derived from the models, were correlated with the same set of environmental characteristics and enzyme activities from the previous study. Total soil C and N, as well as microbial biomass, were strongly positively correlated with both C and N mineralization. However, abiotic factors such as soil chemical components also had significant effects. This, coupled with anomalous behavior noted in C mineralization in response to leaching treatments, may suggest substrate supply to microorganisms constrains much of C mineralization. N mineralization seemed strongly tied to biotic factors in addition to abiotic factors. Often in studies of N dynamics in soil, only mineralized N (NO₃⁻ and NH₄⁺) are examined; our study revealed that DON was the largest fraction of released N in these systems, and dynamics of DON in N cycle warrant further research. Together, these studies provide insights into factors that drive soil microbial community function across a broad range of site conditions for Douglas-fir dominated forests of the Pacific Northwest region and could serve as a baseline for future research.
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