Oecologia

, Volume 161, Issue 1, pp 113–123 | Cite as

Links between plant community composition, soil organic matter quality and microbial communities in contrasting tundra habitats

Ecosystem Ecology - Original Paper

Abstract

Plant communities, soil organic matter and microbial communities are predicted to be interlinked and to exhibit concordant patterns along major environmental gradients. We investigated the relationships between plant functional type composition, soil organic matter quality and decomposer community composition, and how these are related to major environmental variation in non-acid and acid soils derived from calcareous versus siliceous bedrocks, respectively. We analysed vegetation, organic matter and microbial community compositions from five non-acidic and five acidic heath sites in alpine tundra in northern Europe. Sequential organic matter fractionation was used to characterize organic matter quality and phospholipid fatty acid analysis to detect major variation in decomposer communities. Non-acidic and acidic heaths differed substantially in vegetation composition, and these disparities were associated with congruent shifts in soil organic matter and microbial communities. A high proportion of forbs in the vegetation was positively associated with low C:N and high soluble N:phenolics ratios in soil organic matter, and a high proportion of bacteria in the microbial community. On the contrary, dwarf shrub-rich vegetation was associated with high C:N and low soluble N:phenolics ratios, and a high proportion of fungi in the microbial community. Our study demonstrates a strong link between the plant community composition, soil organic matter quality, and microbial community composition, and that differences in one compartment are paralleled by changes in others. Variation in the forb-shrub gradient of vegetation may largely dictate variations in the chemical quality of organic matter and decomposer communities in tundra ecosystems. Soil pH, through its direct and indirect effects on plant and microbial communities, seems to function as an ultimate environmental driver that gives rise to and amplifies the interactions between above- and belowground systems.

Keywords

Habitat fertility Plant functional group Plant–soil interactions Soil pH Soil nutrient cycling 

Supplementary material

442_2009_1362_MOESM1_ESM.doc (31 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 31 kb)

References

  1. Bååth E, Anderson T-H (2003) Comparison of soil fungal/bacterial ratios in a pH gradient using physiological and PLFA-based techniques. Soil Biol Biochem 35:955–963CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bardgett R (2005) The biology of soil: a community and ecosystem approach. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  3. Bending GD, Read DJ (1997) Lignin and soluble phenolic degradation by ectomycorrhizal and ericoid mycorrhizal fungi. Mycol Res 101:1348–1354CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Berendse F (1994) Litter decomposability—a neglected component of plant fitness. J Ecol 82:187–190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bezemer TM, Lawson CS, Hedlund K, Edwards AR, Brook AJ, Igual JM, Mortimer SR, van der Putten WH (2006) Plant species and functional group effects on abiotic and microbial soil properties and plant–soil feedback responses in two grasslands. J Ecol 94:893–904CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bradford M (1976) A rapid and sensitive method for quantitation of microgram quantities of protein utilizing the principle of protein–dye binding. Anal Biochem 72:248–254PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brookes P, Kragt JF, Powlson DS, Jenkinson DS (1985) Chloroform fumigation and the release of soil nitrogen: the effects of fumigation time and temperature. Soil Biol Biochem 17:831–835CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chapin FS III (1980) The mineral nutrition of wild plants. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 11:233–260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cornelissen JHC, Aerts R, Cerabolini B, Werger MJA, van der Heijden MGA (2001) Carbon cycling traits of plant species are linked with mycorrhizal strategy. Oecologia 129:611–619Google Scholar
  10. Cornelissen JHC, Quested HM, van Logtestijn RSP, Pérez-Harguindeguy N, Gwynn-Jones D, Díaz S, Callaghan TV, Press MC, Aerts R (2006) Foliar pH as a new plant trait: can it explain variation in foliar chemistry and carbon cycling processes among subarctic plant species and types? Oecologia 147:315–326PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Crawley MJ (2007) The R book. Wiley, ChichesterCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Crawley MJ, Johnston AE, Silvertown J, Dodd M, de Mazancourt C, Heard MS, Henman DF, Edwards GR (2005) Determinants of species richness in the Park Grass Experiment. Am Nat 165:192–197CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dorrepaal E, Cornelissen JHC, Aerts R, Wallén RB, van Logtestijn RSP (2005) Are growth forms consistent predictors of leaf litter quality and decomposability across peatlands along latitudinal gradient? J Ecol 93:817–828CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Ehrenfeld JG, Ravit B, Elgersma K (2005) Feedback in the plant–soil system. Annu Rev Environ Resour 30:75–115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Eskelinen A (2008) Herbivore and neighbour effects on tundra plants depend on species identity, nutrient availability and local environmental conditions. J Ecol 96:155–165Google Scholar
  16. Fierer N, Jackson RB (2006) The diversity and biogeography of soil bacterial communities. Proc Natl Acad Sci 17:626–631Google Scholar
  17. Fierer N, Morse JL, Berthrong ST, Bernhardt ES, Jackson RB (2007) Environmental controls on the landscape-scale biogeography of stream bacterial communities. Ecology 88:2162–2173PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Frostegård Å, Bååth E (1996) The use of phospholipid fatty acid analysis to estimate bacterial and fungal biomass in soil. Biol Fert Soils 22:59–65CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gallet C, Nilsson M-C, Zackrisson O (1999) Phenolic metabolites of ecological significance in Empetrum hermaphroditum leaves and associated humus. Plant Soil 210:1–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gough L, Shaver GR, Carroll J, Royer DL, Laundre JA (2000) Vascular plant species richness in Alaskan arctic tundra: the importance of soil pH. J Ecol 88:54–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hagerman AE, Butler LG (1978) Protein precipitation method for the quantitative determination of tannins. J Agric Food Chem 26:809–812CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hämet-Ahti L, Suominen J, Ulvinen T, Uotila P (eds) (1998) Retkeilykasvio (Field flora of Finland), 4th edn. Finnish Museum of Natural History, Botanical Museum, HelsinkiGoogle Scholar
  23. Hättenschwiler S, Vitousek PM (2000) The role of polyphenols in terrestrial ecosystem nutrient cycling. Trends Ecol Evol 15:238–243PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hilli S, Stark S, Derome J (2008) Carbon quality and stocks in organic horizons in boreal forest soils. Ecosystems 11:270–282CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hobbie S (1992) Effects of plant species on nutrient cycling. Trends Ecol Evol 7:336–339CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hobbie S (1996) Temperature and plant species control over litter decomposition in Alaskan tundra. Ecol Monogr 66:503–522CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hobbie SE, Gough L (2002) Foliar and soil nutrients in tundra on glacial landscapes of contrasting ages in northern Alaska. Oecologia 131:453–462CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Högberg MN, Högberg PP, Myrold DD (2007) Is microbial community composition in boreal forest soils determined by pH, C-to-N ratio, the trees, or all three? Oecologia 150:590–601PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Järvinen A (1987) Basic climatological data on the Kilpisjärvi area, NW Finnish Lapland. Kilpisjärvi Notes 10:1–16Google Scholar
  30. John MK (1970) Colorimetric determination of phosphorous in soil and plant materials with ascorbic acid. Soil Sci 100:214–220CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kinzel H (1983) Influence of limestone, silicates and soil pH on vegetation. In: Lange OL, Nobel PS, Osmond CB, Ziegler H (eds) Physiological plant ecology. III. Responses to the chemical and biological environment. Springer, Berlin, pp 201–244Google Scholar
  32. Kourtev PS, Ehrenfeld JG, Häggblom M (2002) Exotic plant species alter the microbial community structure and function in the soil. Ecology 83:3152–3166Google Scholar
  33. Kroppenstedt RM (1985) Fatty acid and menaquinone analysis of Actinomycetes and related organisms. In: Goodfellow M, Minnikin DE (eds) Chemical methods in bacterial systematics. Academic Press, London, pp 173–199Google Scholar
  34. Lützow M, Kögel-knabner I, Ekschmitt K, Matzer E, Guggenberger G, Marschner B, Flessa H (2006) Stabilization of organic matter in temperate soils: mechanisms and their relevance under different soil conditions—a review. Eur J Soil Sci 57:426–445CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Madigan M, Martinko J, Parker J (2003) Brock biology of microorganisms. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle RiverGoogle Scholar
  36. Männistö MK, Häggblom MM (2006) Characterization of psychrotolerant heterotrophic bacteria from Finnish Lapland. Syst Appl Microbiol 29:229–243PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Männistö MK, Tiirola M, Häggblom MM (2007) Bacterial communities in Arctic fjelds of Finnish Lapland are stable but highly pH-dependent. FEMS Microbiol Ecol 59:452–465PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Mutabaruka R, Hairiah K, Cadisch G (2007) Microbial degradation of hydrolysable and condensed tannin polyphenol-protein complexes in soils from different land-use histories. Soil Biol Biochem 39:1479–1492CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Nilsson M-C, Wardle DA, Zackrisson O, Jäderlund A (2002) Effects of alleviation of ecological stresses on an alpine tundra community over an eight-year period. Oikos 97:3–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Nordin A, Schmidt IK, Shaver GR (2004) Nitrogen uptake by arctic soil microbes and plants in relation to soil nitrogen supply. Ecology 85:955–962CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Northup RR, Yu Z, Dahlgren RA, Vogt KA (1995) Polyphenol control of nitrogen release from pine litter. Nature 377:227–229CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Northup RR, Dahlgren RA, McColl JG (1998) Polyphenols as regulators of plant-litter-soil interactions in northern California’s pygmy forest: a positive feedback? Biogeochemistry 42:189–220CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Olsson PA (1999) Signature fatty acids provide tools for determination of the distribution and interactions of mycorrhizal fungi in soil. FEMS Microbiol Ecol 29:303–310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Orwin KH, Wardle DA, Greenfield LG (2006) Ecological consequences of carbon substrate identity and diversity in a laboratory study. Ecology 87:580–593PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Pärtel M (2002) Local plant diversity patterns and evolutionary history at the regional scale. Ecology 83:2361–2366Google Scholar
  46. Paul EA, Clark FE (1996) Soil microbiol biochemistry, 2nd edn. Academic Press, San DiegoGoogle Scholar
  47. Peet RK, Fridley JD, Gramling JM (2003) Variation in species richness and species pool size across a pH gradient in forests of the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains. Folia Geobot 38:391–401CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Pérez-Harguindeguy N, Díaz S, Cornelissen JCH, Verdramini F, Cabido M, Castellanos A (2000) Chemistry and toughness predict leaf litter decomposition rates over a wide spectrum of functional types and taxa in central Argentina. Plant Soil 218:21–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Pinheiro JC, Bates DM (2000) Mixed-effects models in S and S-PLUS. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  50. Quested HM, Cornelissen JHC, Press MC, Callaghan TV, Aerts R, Trosien F, Riemann P, Gwynn-Jones D, Kondratchuk A, Jonasson SE (2003) Decomposition of sub-arctic plants with differing nitrogen economies: a functional role for hemiparasites. Ecology 84:3209–3221CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. R Development Core Team (2007) R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna. ISBN 3-900051-07-0, URL http://www.R-project.org
  52. Read DJ, Perez-Moreno J (2003) Mycorrhizas and nutrient cycling in ecosystems–a journey towards relevance? New Phytol 157:475–492CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Reynolds HL, Packer A, Bever JD, Clay K (2003) Grassroots ecology: plant–microbe–soil interactions as drivers of plant community structure and dynamics. Ecology 84:2281–2291CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Ruess L, Häggblom MM, García Zapata EJ, Dighton J (2002) Fatty acids of fungi and nematodes–possible biomarkers in the soil food chain? Soil Biol Biochem 34:745–756CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Ruess L, Schütz K, Haubert D, Häggblom MM, Kandeler E, Scheu S (2005) Application of lipid analysis to understand trophic interactions in soil. Ecology 86:2075–2082CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Ryan MG, Melillo JM, Ricca A (1990) A comparison of methods for determining proximate carbon fractions of forest litter. Can J For Res 20:166–171CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Shaver GR, Giblin AE, Nadelhoffer KJ, Thieler KK, Downs MR, Laundre JA, Rastetter EB (2006) Carbon turnover in Alaskan tundra soils: effects of organic matter quality, temperature, moisture and fertilizer. J Ecol 94:740–753CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Shaw MR, Harte J (2001) Control of litter decomposition in a subalpine meadow-sagebrush steppe ecotone under climate change. Ecol Appl 11:1206–1223Google Scholar
  59. Suominen K, Kitunen V, Smolander A (2003) Characteristics of dissolved organic matter and phenolic compounds in forest soils under silver birch (Betula pendula), Norway spruce (Picea abies) and Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris). Eur J Soil Sci 54:287–293CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Van der Heijden MGA, Bardgett RD, van Straalen NM (2008) The unseen majority: soil microbes as drivers of plant diversity and productivity in terrestrial ecosystems. Ecol Lett 11:296–310PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Virtanen R, Dirnböck T, Dullinger S, Grabherr G, Pauli H, Staudinger M, Villar L (2003) Patterns in the plant species richness of European high mountain vegetation. In: Nagy L, Grabherr G, Körner Ch, Thompson DBA (eds) Alpine biodiversity in Europe, Ecological Studies 167. Springer, Berlin, pp 149–172Google Scholar
  62. Virtanen R, Oksanen J, Oksanen L, Razzhivin VY (2006) Broad-scale vegetation-environment relationships in Eurasian high-latitude areas. J Veg Sci 17:519–528CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Wardle DA (2002) Communities and ecosystems: linking the aboveground and belowground components. Monographs in population biology 34. Princeton University Press, NJGoogle Scholar
  64. Wardle DA, Bardgett RD, Klironomos JN, Setälä H, van der Putten WH, Wall DH (2004) Ecological linkages between aboveground and belowground biota. Science 304:1629–1633PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Wieder RK, Starr ST (1998) Quantitative determination of organic fractions in highly organic Sphagnum peat soils. Commun Soil Sci Plant Anal 29:847–857CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Williams BL, Shand CA, Hill M, O’Hara C, Smith S, Young ME (1995) A procedure for the simultaneous oxidation of total soluble nitrogen and phosphorus in extracts of fresh and fumigated soils and litters. Commun Soil Sci Plant Anal 26:91–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Zak DR, Kling GW (2006) Microbial community composition and function across an arctic tundra landscape. Ecology 87:1659–1670PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of OuluOuluFinland
  2. 2.Finnish Forest Research InstituteRovaniemiFinland

Personalised recommendations