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Relationships between nitrogen cycling microbial community abundance and composition reveal the indirect effect of soil pH on oak decline

Scarlett, Kelly and Denman, Sandra and Clark, David R and Forster, Jack and Vanguelova, Elena and Brown, N and Whitby, Corinne (2020) 'Relationships between nitrogen cycling microbial community abundance and composition reveal the indirect effect of soil pH on oak decline.' The ISME Journal. ISSN 1751-7362

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Abstract

Tree decline is a global concern and the primary cause is often unknown. Complex interactions between fluctuations in nitrogen (N) and acidifying compounds have been proposed as factors causing nutrient imbalances and decreasing stress tolerance of oak trees. Microorganisms are crucial in regulating soil N available to plants, yet little is known about the relationships between soil N-cycling and tree health. Here, we combined high-throughput sequencing and qPCR analysis of key nitrification and denitrification genes with soil chemical analyses to characterise ammonia-oxidising bacteria (AOB), archaea (AOA) and denitrifying communities in soils associated with symptomatic (declining) and asymptomatic (apparently healthy) oak trees (<jats:italic>Quercus robur</jats:italic> and <jats:italic>Q. petraea</jats:italic>) in the United Kingdom. Asymptomatic trees were associated with a higher abundance of AOB that is driven positively by soil pH. No relationship was found between AOA abundance and tree health. However, AOA abundance was driven by lower concentrations of NH<jats:sub>4</jats:sub><jats:sup>+</jats:sup>, further supporting the idea of AOA favouring lower soil NH<jats:sub>4</jats:sub><jats:sup>+</jats:sup> concentrations. Denitrifier abundance was influenced primarily by soil C:N ratio, and correlations with AOB regardless of tree health. These findings indicate that amelioration of soil acidification by balancing C:N may affect AOB abundance driving N transformations, reducing stress on declining oak trees.

Item Type: Article
Divisions: Faculty of Science and Health > Life Sciences, School of
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 21 Oct 2020 11:12
Last Modified: 24 Nov 2020 12:15
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/28934

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