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Fifteen years of climate change manipulations alter soil microbial communities in a subarctic heath ecosystem

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Soil microbial biomass in arctic heaths has been shown to be largely unaffected by treatments simulating climate change with temperature, nutrient and light manipulations. Here, we demonstrate that more than 10 years is needed for development of significant responses, and that changes in microbial biomass are accompanied with strong alterations in microbial community composition. In contrast to slight or nonsignificant responses after 5, 6 and 10 treatment years, 15 years of inorganic NPK fertilizer addition to a subarctic heath had strong effects on the microbial community and, as observed for the first time, warming and shading also led to significant responses, often in opposite direction to the fertilization responses. The effects were clearer in the top 5 cm soil than at the 5–10 cm depth. Fertilization increased microbial biomass C and more than doubled microbial biomass P compared to the non-fertilized plots. However, it only increased microbial biomass N at the 5–10 cm depth. Fertilization increased fungal biomass and the relative abundance of phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) markers of gram-positive bacteria. Warming and shading decreased the relative abundance of fungal PLFAs, and shading also altered the composition of the bacterial community. The long time lag in responses may be associated with indirect effects of the gradual changes in the plant biomass and community composition. The contrasting responses to warming and fertilization treatments show that results from fertilizer addition may not be similar to the effects of increased nutrient mineralization and availability following climatic warming.

Keywords: Arctic; ergosterol; fertilization; microbial biomass; microbial community composition; nutrient availability; phospholipid fatty acids; shading; warming

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Terrestrial Ecology, Institute of Biology, University of Copenhagen, Øster Farimagsgade 2D, DK-1353 Copenhagen K, Denmark, 2: Department of Microbial Ecology, Lund University, Ecology Building, SE-22362 Lund, Sweden

Publication date: January 1, 2007


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