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Microbial and Plant Community Structure Across a Primary Succession Gradient

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The formation of the organic layer within Scandinavian forest soil started about 10000 yr ago, following the retreat of the continental ice sheet. Since then the land has been slowly rising in northern Europe and uplift still occurs on the coast of the Bothnian Bay at a rate of about 0.6-0.9 m per 100 yr. Four, 300 m long, successional gradients were studied from the shoreline to a Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) stand with a fully developed humus layer of a few centimetres' thickness. The plantless shoreline was followed by small foredunes and dunes, characterized by Agrostis stolonifera and Leymus arenarius, respectively, and the deflation basin characterized by lichens and sparse Festuca ovina and Deschampsia flexuosa. The study sites situated in Scots pine stands of about 25 and 40 yr age were characterized by sparse dwarf shrubs, lichens and bryophytes. The amount of organic matter in soil increased along the gradient. When the microbial biomass, estimated as indicative phospholipid fatty acids (PLFAs), was calculated on the organic matter basis, the total microbial biomass as well the amount of bacterial PLFAs decreased from the earlier stages of succession towards the pine forest. The ratio of fungal to bacterial PLFAs increased along the succession. The bacterial community structure in the shore soil was different to that in the dune soil or in forested zones. On the plantless shore the microbial community was almost completely described by PLFAs indicative of Gram-negative bacteria. In addition to these bacterial PLFAs, dunes were characterized by PLFAs indicative of actinomycetes. Thus, the fungal part of the microbial community seemed to respond most to the accumulation of organic matter and increasing C/N ratio, while the bacterial biomass and bacterial community structure seemed also to reflect the composition of the vegetation and the varying quality of the organic matter.


Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Finnish Forest Research Institute, P.O. Box 18, FI-01301 Vantaa, Finland 2: Department of Ecological and Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki, FI-15140 Lahti, Finland 3: Department of Biology, University of Oulu, P.O. Box 3000, FI-90014 Oulu, Finland

Publication date: 2001-01-01

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