Soil microbial community response to nitrogen enrichment in two scrub oak forests

Jennifer Adams Krumins, John Dighton, Dennis Gray, Rima B. Franklin, Peter J. Morin, Michael S. Roberts

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24 Scopus citations


Microbial communities play a pivotal role in soil nutrient cycling, which is affected by nitrogen loading on soil fungi and particularly mycorrhizal fungi. In this experiment, we evaluated the effects of allochthonous nitrogen addition on soil bacteria and fungi in two geographically distinct but structurally similar scrub oak forests, one in Florida (FL) and one in New Jersey (NJ). We applied allochthonous nitrogen as aqueous NH4NO3 in three concentrations (0 kg ha-1 yr-1 (deionized water control), 35 kg ha-1 yr-1 and 70 kg ha-1 yr-1) via monthly treatments over the course of 1 yr. We applied treatments to replicated 1 m2 plots, each at the base of a reference scrub oak tree (Quercus myrtifolia in FL and Q. ilicifolia in NJ). We measured microbial community response by monitoring: bacterial and fungal biomass using substrate induced respiration, and several indicators of community composition, including colony and ectomycorrhizal morphotyping and molecular profiling using terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (TRFLP). Bacterial colony type richness responded differently to nitrogen treatment in the different sites, but ectomycorrhizal morphotype richness was not affected by nitrogen or location. Both experimental sites were dominated by fungi, and FL consistently supported more bacterial and fungal biomass than NJ. Bacterial biomass responded to nitrogen addition, but only in FL. Fungal biomass did not respond significantly to nitrogen addition at either experimental site. The composition of the bacterial community differed between nitrogen treatments and experimental sites, while the composition of the fungal community did not. Our results imply that bacterial communities may be more sensitive than fungi to intense pulses of nitrogen in sandy soils.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1383-1390
Number of pages8
JournalForest Ecology and Management
Issue number7
StatePublished - 15 Sep 2009


  • Bacteria
  • Microbial community
  • Mycorrhizae
  • Nitrogen


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