, Volume 52, Issue 2, pp 226-238
Date: 08 Aug 2006

The Influence of Tropical Plant Diversity and Composition on Soil Microbial Communities

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There is growing interest in understanding the linkages between above- and belowground communities, and very little is known about these linkages in tropical systems. Using an experimental site at La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica, we examined whether plant diversity, plant community composition, and season influenced microbial communities. We also determined whether soil characteristics were related to differences in microbial communities. Phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) composition revealed that microbial community composition differed across a plant diversity gradient (plots contained 1, 3, 5, or over 25 species). Plant species identity also was a factor influencing microbial community composition; PLFA composition significantly varied among monocultures, and among three-species combinations that differed in plant species composition. Differences among treatments within each of these comparisons were apparent in all four sampling dates of the study. There was no consistent shift in microbial community composition between wet and dry seasons, although we did see significant changes over time. Of all measured soil characteristics, soil C/N was most often associated with changes in microbial community composition across treatment groups. Our findings provide evidence for human alteration of soil microbial communities via the alteration of plant community composition and diversity and that such changes are mediated in part by changes in soil carbon quality.