Advertisement

Oecologia

, Volume 106, Issue 4, pp 507–515 | Cite as

Microbial biomass C, N and P in two arctic soils and responses to addition of NPK fertilizer and sugar: implications for plant nutrient uptake

  • Sven Jonasson
  • Anders Michelsen
  • Inger K. Schmidt
  • Esben V. Nielsen
  • Terry V. Callaghan
Article

Abstract

The soil microbial carbon (C), nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) pools were quantified in the organic horizon of soils from an arctic/alpine low-altitude heath and a high-altitude fellfield by the fumigation-extraction method before and after factorial addition of sugar, NPK fertilizer and benomyl, a fungicide. In unamended soil, microbial C, N and P made up 3.3–3.6%, 6.1–7.3% and 34.7% of the total soil C, N and P content, respectively. The inorganic extractable N pool was below 0.1% and the inorganic extractable P content slightly less than 1% of the total soil pool sizes. Benomyl addition in spring and summer did not affect microbial C or nutrient content analysed in the autumn. Sugar amendments increased microbial C by 15 and 37% in the two soils, respectively, but did not affect the microbial nutrient content, whereas inorganic N and P either declined significantly or tended to decline. The increased microbial C indicates that the microbial biomass also increased but without a proportional enhancement of N and P uptake. NPK addition did not affect the amount of microbial C but almost doubled the microbial N pool and more than doubled the P pool. A separate study has shown that CO2 evolution increased by more than 50% after sugar amendment and by about 30% after NPK and NK additions to one of the soils. Hence, the microbial biomass did not increase in response to NPK addition, but the microbes immobilized large amounts of the added nutrients and, judging by the increased CO2 evolution, their activity increased. We conclude: (1) that microbial biomass production in these soils is stimulated by labile carbon and that the microbial activity is stimulated by both labile C and by nutrients (N); (2) that the microbial biomass is a strong sink for nutrients and that the microbial community probably can withdraw substantial amounts of nutrients from the inorganic, plant-available pool, at least periodically; (3) that temporary declines in microbial populations are likely to release a flush of inorganic nutrients to the soil, particularly P of which the microbial biomass contained more than one third of the total soil pool; and (4) that the mobilization-immobilization cycles of nutrients coupled to the population dynamics of soil organisms can be a significant regulating factor for the nutrient supply to the primary producers, which are usually strongly nutrient-limited in arctic ecosystems.

Key words

Arctic/alpine soils Benomyl Microbial C, N, P Nutrient immobilization Plant nutrient uptake 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Brookes PC, Powlson DS, Jenkinson DS (1982) Measurement of microbial biomass phosphorus in soil. Soil Biol Biochem 14:319–329Google Scholar
  2. Brookes PC, Kragt JF, Powlson DS, Jenkinson DS (1985a) Chloroform fumigation and the release of soil nitrogen: the effect of fumigation time and temperature. Soil Biol Biochem 17:831–835Google Scholar
  3. Brookes PC, Landman A, Pruden G, Jenkinson DS (1985b) Chloroform fumigation and the release of soil nitrogen: a rapid direct extraction method to measure microbial biomass nitrogen in the soil. Soil Biol Biochem 17:837–842Google Scholar
  4. Chapin FS III, Barsdate RJ, Barel D (1978) Phosphorus cycling in Alaskan coastal tundra: a hypothesis for the regulation of nutrient cycling. Oikos 31:189–199Google Scholar
  5. Chapin FS III, Fetcher N, Kielland K, Everett KR, Linkins AE (1988) Productivity and nutrient cycling of Alaskan tundra: enhancement by flowing soil water. Ecology 69:693–702Google Scholar
  6. Cheng W, Virginia RA (1993) Measurements of microbial biomass in arctic tundra soils using fumigation-extraction and substrate-induced respiration procedures. Soil Biol Biochem 25:135–141Google Scholar
  7. Fitter AH (1986) Effect of benomyl on leaf phosphorus concentration in alpine grasslands: a test of mycorrhizal benefit. New Phytol 103:767–776Google Scholar
  8. Fitter AH, Nichols R (1988) The use of benomyl to control infection by vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. New Phytol 110:201–206Google Scholar
  9. Giblin AE, Nadelhoffer KJ, Shaver GR, Laundre JA, McKerrow AJ (1991) Biogeochemical diversity along a riverside toposequence in arctic Alaska. Ecol Monogr 61:415–435Google Scholar
  10. Haag RW (1974) Nutrient limitations to plant production in two tundra communities. Can J Bot 52:103–116Google Scholar
  11. Harte J, Kinzig AP (1993) Mutualism and competition between plants and decomposers: implications for nutrient allocation in ecosystems. Am Nat 141:829–846Google Scholar
  12. Jenkinson DS, Powlson DS (1976) The effect of biocidal treatments on metabolism in soil-V. A method for measuring soil biomass. Soil Biol Biochem 8:209–213Google Scholar
  13. Jonasson S (1992) Growth responses to fertilization and species removal in tundra related to community structure and clonality. Oikos 63:420–429Google Scholar
  14. Jonasson S (in press) Buffering of arctic plant responses in a changing climate. In: Oechel WC, Callaghan TV, Gilmanov T, Holten JI, Maxwell B, Molau U, Sveinbjörnsson B (eds) Global change and arctic terrestrial ecosystems. Springer-VerlagGoogle Scholar
  15. Jonasson S, Chapin FS III (1991) Seasonal uptake and allocation of phosphorus in Eriophorum vaginatum L. measured by labelling with 32P. New Phytol 118:349–357Google Scholar
  16. Jonasson S, Havström M, Jensen M, Callaghan TV (1993) In situ mineralization of nitrogen and phosphorus of arctic soils after perturbations simulating climate change. Oecologia 95:179–186Google Scholar
  17. Kedrowski RA (1983) Extraction and analysis of nitrogen, phosphorus and carbon fractions in plant material. J Plant Nutr 6:989–1011Google Scholar
  18. Koide RT, Huenneke LF, Hamburg SP, Mooney HA (1988) Effects of applications of fungicide, phosphorus and nitrogen on the structure and productivity of an annual serpentine plant community. Funct Ecol 2:335–344Google Scholar
  19. Liu LX, Hsiang T (1994) Bioassays for benomyl adsorption and persistence in soil. Soil Biol Biochem 26:317–324Google Scholar
  20. Marion GM, Miller PC, Kummerow J, Oechel WC (1982) Competition for nitrogen in a tussock tundra ecosystem. Plant Soil 66:317–327Google Scholar
  21. Michelsen A, Schmidt IK, Jonasson S, Dighton J, Jones HE, Callaghan TV (1995) Inhibition of growth, and effects on nutrient uptake of arctic graminoids by leaf extracts — allelopathy or resource competition between plants and microbes?. Oecologia 103:407–418Google Scholar
  22. Michelsen A, Schmidt IK, Jonasson S, Quarmby C, Sleep D (1996) Leaf 15N abundance of subarctic plants provides field evidence that ericoid, ectomycorrhizal and non- and arbuscular mycorrhizal species access different sources of soil nitrogen. Oecologia 105:53–63Google Scholar
  23. Nadelhoffer KJ, Giblin AE, Shaver GR, Laundre JL (1991) Effects of temperature and substrate quality on element mineralization in six arctic soils. Ecology 72:242–253Google Scholar
  24. Parinkina OM (1974) Bacterial production in tundra soils. In: Holding AJ, Heal OW, MacLean SF Jr, Flanagan PW (eds) Soil organisms and decomposition in tundra. Tundra Biome Steering Committee, Stockholm, pp 65–77Google Scholar
  25. Patra DD, Brookes PC, Coleman K, Jenkinson DS (1990) Seasonal changes of soil microbial biomass in an arable and a grassland soil which have been under uniform management for many years. Soil Biol Biochem 22:739–742Google Scholar
  26. Post WM (1993) Uncertainties in the terrestrial carbon cycle. In: Solomon AM, Shugart HH (eds) Vegetation dynamics and global change. Chapman and Hall, New York, pp 116–132Google Scholar
  27. Read DJ (1991) Mycorrhizas in ecosystems — nature's response to the “law of minimum”. In: Haksworth DL (ed) Frontiers in mycology. Honorary lectures from the fourth international mycological congress, Regensburg 1990. C.A.B. International, Wallingford, pp 101–130Google Scholar
  28. Ross DJ, Tate KR (1993) Microbial C and N, and respiratory activity, in litter and soil of a southern beech (Nothofagus) forest: Distribution and properties. Soil Biol Biochem 25:477–483Google Scholar
  29. Rosswall T (1976) The internal nitrogen cycle between microorganisms, vegetation and soil. In: Svensson BH, Söderlund R (eds) Nitrogen, phosphorus and sulphur — global cycles (SCOPE Report 7). Ecol Bull 22:157–167Google Scholar
  30. Rosswall T, Flower-Ellis JGK, Johansson LG, Jonsson S, Rydén BE, Sonesson M (1975) Stordalen (Abisko) Sweden. In: Rosswall T, Heal OW (eds) Structure and function of tundra ecosystems. Ecol Bull 20:265–294Google Scholar
  31. Sarathchandra SU, Perrott KW, Littler RA (1989) Soil microbial biomass: influence of simulated temperature changes on size, activity and nutrient-content. Soil Biol Biochem 21:987–993Google Scholar
  32. Schimel JP, Jackson LE, Firestone MK (1989) Spatial and temporal effects on plant-microbial competition for inorganic nitrogen in a California annual grassland. Soil Biol Biochem 21:1059–1066Google Scholar
  33. Shaver GR, Chapin FS III (1980) Response to fertilization by various plant growth forms in an Alaskan tundra: nutrient accumulation and growth. Ecology 61:662–675Google Scholar
  34. Shaver GR, Chapin FS III (1995) Long-ferm responses to factorial NPK fertilizer treatment by Alaskan wet and moist fundra sedge species. Ecography 18:259–275Google Scholar
  35. Shaver GR, Chapin FS III (1986) Effect of fertilizer on production and biomass of tussock tundra, Alaska, U.S.A. Arct Alp Res 18:261–268Google Scholar
  36. Shaver GR, Chapin FS III, Gartner BL (1986) Factors limiting seasonal growth and peak biomass accumulation in Eriophorum vaginatum in an Alaskan tussock tundra. J Ecol 74:257–278Google Scholar
  37. Smith JL, Paul EA (1990) The significance of soil microbial biomass estimations. In: Bollag JM, Stotsky G (eds) Soil biochemistry, vol 6. Marcel Dekker, New York, pp 357–396Google Scholar
  38. Sparling GP, Feltham CV, Reynolds J, West AW, Singleton P (1990) Estimation of soil microbial C by a fumigation-extraction method: use on soils of high organic matter content, and a reassessment of the k EC-factor. Soil Biol. Biochem 22:301–307Google Scholar
  39. Tate KR, Ross DJ, Feltham CW (1988) A direct extraction method to estimate soil microbial C: effects of experimental variables and some different calibration procedures. Soil Biol Biochem 20:329–335Google Scholar
  40. Ulrich A, Gersper PL (1978) Plant nutrient limitations of tundra plant growth. In: Tieszen LL (ed) Vegetation and production ecology of an Alaskan arctic tundra. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 457–482Google Scholar
  41. Vance ED, Brookes PC, Jenkinson DS (1987) An extraction method for measuring soil microbial biomass C. Soil Biol Biochem 19:703–707Google Scholar
  42. Voroney RP, Winter JP, Beyaert RP (1993) Soil microbial biomass C and N. In: Carter MR (ed) Soil sampling and methods of analysis. Lewis, Boca Raton, pp 277–286Google Scholar
  43. Warren Wilson J (1966) An analysis of plant growth and its control in arctic environments. Ann Bot 30:383–402Google Scholar
  44. Williams BL, Sparling GP (1984) Extractable N and P in relation to microbial biomass. Plant Soil 76:139–148Google Scholar
  45. Wood T, Bormann FH, Voigt GK (1984) Phosphorus cycling in a northern hardwood forest: biological and chemical control. Science 223:391–393Google Scholar
  46. Zak DR, Groffman PM, Pregitzer KS, Christensen S, Tiedje JM (1990) The vernal dam: plant-microbe competition for nitrogen in northern hardwood forests. Ecology 71:651–656Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sven Jonasson
    • 1
  • Anders Michelsen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Inger K. Schmidt
    • 1
  • Esben V. Nielsen
    • 1
  • Terry V. Callaghan
    • 3
  1. 1.Botanical Institute, Department of Plant EcologyUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagen KDenmark
  2. 2.Merlewood Research StationInstitute of Terrestrial EcologyGrange-over-SandsUK
  3. 3.Sheffield Centre for Arctic Ecology, Department of Animal and Plant SciencesThe University of Sheffield, Tapton Experimental GardensSheffieldUK

Personalised recommendations