Microbial Ecology

, Volume 55, Issue 3, pp 500–511 | Cite as

PLFA Profiling of Microbial Community Structure and Seasonal Shifts in Soils of a Douglas-fir Chronosequence

  • Jennifer Moore-Kucera
  • Richard P. Dick
Original Article


The impact and frequency of forest harvesting could significantly affect soil microbial community (SMC) structure and functioning. The ability of soil microorganisms to perform biogeochemical processes is critical for sustaining forest productivity and has a direct impact on decomposition dynamics and carbon storage potential. The Wind River Canopy Crane Research Forest in SW, WA, provided a unique opportunity to study a forest chronosequence and the residual effects of harvesting on the SMC in comparison to old-growth forests. The objective of this study was to determine the effect of clear-cutting and stand age on temporal dynamics of SMC and physiological stress markers using phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) profiling. Soil microbial PLFA profiles were determined seven times over 22 months (Nov. 02 to Sep. 04) in old-growth coniferous forest stands (300–500 years) and 8 (CC8)- or 25 (CC25)-year-old replanted clear-cuts. PLFA patterns of the SMC shifted because of clear-cutting, but seasonal temporal changes had greater shifts than differences among stand age. The microbial biomass (total PLFA) and bacterial, fungal, and selected other PLFAs were significantly reduced in CC8 but not in CC25 sites relative to the old-growth sites. An increase in stress indicators [PLFA ratios of saturated/monsaturated and (cy17:0 + cy19:0)/(16:1ω7 + 18:1ω7)] in late summer was related to water stress. Although the canopy and litter input are quite different for a 25-year clear-cut compared to virgin old-growth forest, we conclude that the composition of the microbial communities, 25 years after clear-cutting, has recovered sufficiently to be much more similar to old-growth forests than a recent clear-cut at this Pacific Northwest forest site. The study shows the potential of PLFA analysis for profiling microbial communities and their stress status under field conditions, but wide temporal shifts emphasize the need for sampling over seasons to fully interpret ecosystem management impacts on microbial populations.


Soil Microbial Community Nonmetric Multidimensional Scaling Soil Moisture Data Soil Microbial Community Structure Total PLFA 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This research was supported by the Office of Science (BER), US Department of Energy, through the Western Regional Center of the National Institute for Global Environmental Change under Cooperative Agreement No. DE-FC02-03ER63613 and No. DE-FC03-90ER-90ER61010.

The authors also would like to thank the following people: Dr. Hank Loescher provided microclimatic equipment and assistance. Dr. Jeff Klopatek provided soil temperature data for CC25 sites. Joan Sandeno provided field assistance and edited the manuscript. Dr. David Shaw and The WRCCRF Staff for site management and assistance.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of HorticultureOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA
  2. 2.School of Environment and Natural ResourcesOhio State UniversityColumbusUSA

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