, Volume 223, Issue 1-2, pp 187-195

Influence of gap size and soil properties on microbial biomass in a subtropical humid forest of north-east India

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We examined the effects of treefall gap size and soil properties on microbial biomass dynamics in an undisturbed mature-phase humid subtropical broadleaved forest in north-east India. Canopy gaps had low soil moisture and low microbial biomass suggesting that belowground dynamics accompanied changes in light resources after canopy opening. High rainfall in the region causes excessive erosion/leaching of top soil and eventually soil fertility declines in treefall gaps compared to understorey. Soil microbial population was less during periods when temperature and moisture conditions are low, while it peaked during rainy season when the litter decomposition rate is at its peak on the forest floor. Greater demand for nutrients by plants during rainy season (the peak vegetative growth period) limited the availability of nutrients to soil microbes and, therefore, low microbial C, N and P. Weak correlations were also obtained for the relationships between microbial C, N and P and soil physico–chemical properties. Gap size did influence the microbial nutrients and their contribution to soil organic carbon, total Kjeldhal nitrogen and available-P. Contribution of microbial C to soil organic carbon, microbial N to total nitrogen were similar in both treefall gaps and understorey plots, while the contribution of microbial P to soil available-P was lower in gap compared to the understorey. These results indicate that any fluctuation in microbial biomass related nutrient cycling processes in conjunction with the associated microclimate variation may affect the pattern of regeneration of tree seedlings in the gaps and hence be related with their size.

This revised version was published online in June 2006 with corrections to the Cover Date.