Plant and Soil

, Volume 295, Issue 1–2, pp 265–277 | Cite as

Dissolved organic carbon affects soil microbial activity and nitrogen dynamics in a Mexican tropical deciduous forest

  • Noé Manuel Montaño
  • Felipe García-OlivaEmail author
  • Víctor J. Jaramillo
Regular Article


Seasonal variation of dissolved organic C (DOC) and its effects on microbial activity and N dynamics were studied during two consecutive years in soils with different organic C concentrations (hilltop and hillslope) in a tropical deciduous forest of Mexico. We found that DOC concentrations were higher at the hilltop than at the hillslope soils, and in both soils generally decreased from the dry to the rainy season during the two study years. Microbial biomass and potential C mineralization rates, as well as dissolved organic N (DON) and NH 4 + concentrations and net N immobilization were higher in soils with higher DOC than in soils with lower DOC. In contrast, net N immobilization and NH 4 + concentration were depleted in the soil with lowest DOC, whereas NO 3 concentrations and net nitrification increased. Negative correlations between net nitrification and DOC concentration suggested that NH 4 + was transformed to NO 3 by nitrifiers when the C availability was depleted. Taken together, our results suggest that available C appears to control soil microbial activity and N dynamics, and that microbial N immobilization is facilitated by active heterotrophic microorganisms stimulated by high C availability. Soil autotrophic nitrification is magnified by decreases in C availability for heterotrophic microbial activity. This study provides an experimental data set that supports the conceptual model to show and highlight that microbial dynamics and N transformations could be functionally coupled with DOC availability in the tropical deciduous forest soils.


C and N availability Dissolved organic C Microbial biomass Mexico Nitrification Tropical dry forests 



Dissolved organic carbon


Dissolved organic nitrogen



We thank Edmundo García-Moya for useful and constructive comments on this project. We would like to thank Maribel Nava-Mendoza for her technical support with chemical analyses in the laboratory. We are also grateful to Salvador Araiza, Abel Verduzco, Carlos Anaya and Ana Noguez for their help in the field work, and Enrique Tapia for his support in the laboratory. We thank Raúl Ahedo, Heberto Ferreira and Alberto Valencia for assistance in data processing, and the personnel of the Chamela Biological Station of the Institute of Biology, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) for logistic support during field work. We also thank the critical comments of two anonymous reviewers, who helped us to considerably improve the manuscript for publication. N.M. Montaño acknowledges Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACyT)-Mexico (No. 163199) and Dirección General de Estudios de Posgrado (DGEP)-UNAM for scholarships to pursue a doctoral degree in the Centro de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas, UNAM, Mexico. This project was supported by CONACyT-Mexico (G27674-N).


  1. Asmar F, Eiland F, Nielse NE (1994) Effect of extracellular-enzyme activities on solubilization rate of soil organic nitrogen. Biol Fertil Soils 17:32–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Balvanera P, Lott E, Segura G, Siebe Ch, Islas A (2002) Patterns of beta-diversity in a Mexican tropical dry forest. J Veget Sci 13:145–158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barrett JE, Burke IC (2000) Potential nitrogen immobilization in grassland soils across a soil organic matter gradient. Soil Biol Biochem 32:1707–1716CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bernhardt ES, Likens G (2002) Dissolved organic carbon enrichment alters nitrogen dynamics in a forest stream. Ecology 83:1689–1700CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Booth MS, Stark JM, Rastetter E (2005) Controls on nitrogen cycling in terrestrial ecosystems: a synthetic analysis of literature data. Ecology 75:139–157Google Scholar
  6. Brookes P, Landman A, Pruden G, Jenkinson D (1985) Chloroform fumigation and the release of soil nitrogen: a rapid direct extraction method to measure microbial biomass nitrogen in soil. Soil Biol Biochem 17:837–842CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Campo J, Maass JM, de Pablo L (2001) Intemperismo en un bosque tropical seco de México. Agrociencia 35:245–254Google Scholar
  8. Chantigny MH (2003) Dissolved and water-extractable organic matter in soils: a review on the influence of land use and management practices. Geoderma 113:357–380CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chapin 3rd FS, Matson PA, Mooney HA (2002) Principles of terrestrial ecosystem ecology. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg-New York, USA, p. 436Google Scholar
  10. Chen J, Stark JM (2000) Plant species effects and carbon and nitrogen cycling in a sagebrush-crested wheatgrass soil. Soil Biol Biochem 32:47–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cotler H, Durán E, Siebe Ch (2002) Caracterización morfo-edafológica y calidad de sitio de un bosque tropical caducifolio. In: Noguera FA, Vega JH, García A, Quezada M (eds) Historia Natural de Chamela. Instituto de Biología, UNAM, Mexico City, pp. 17–79Google Scholar
  12. Davidson EA, Kingerlee W (1997) A global inventory of nitric oxide emissions from soils. Nutr Cycl Agroecosyst 48:37–50Google Scholar
  13. Galicia L, García-Oliva F, López-Blanco J (1995) Efecto de la estructura jerárquica del relieve en la distribución de las características físicas de los suelos en una cuenca tropical estacional mexicana. Bol Invest Geográficas 13:53–75Google Scholar
  14. Galicia L, López-Blanco J, Zarco-Arista AE, Filips V, García-Oliva F (1999) The relationship between solar radiation interception and soil water content in a tropical deciduous forest in Mexico. Catena 36:153–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. García-Méndez G, Maass JM, Matson P, Vitousek P (1991) Nitrogen transformations and nitrous oxide flux in a tropical deciduous forest in Mexico. Oecologia 88:362–366CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. García-Oliva F, Camu A, Maass JM (2002) El clima de la Región de Central de la costa del Pacífico Mexicano. In: Noguera FA, Vega JH, García A, Quezada M (eds) Historia Natural de Chamela. Instituto de Biología, UNAM, Mexico City, pp. 3–10Google Scholar
  17. García-Oliva F, Ezcurra E, Galicia L (1991) Pattern of rainfall distribution in the Central Pacific coast of Mexico. Geografiska Annaler 73:179–186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. García-Oliva F, Gallardo JF, Montaño NM, Islas P (2006) Soil carbon and nitrogen dynamics followed by a forest-to-pasture conversion in western Mexico. Agroforestry Syst 66:93–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. García-Oliva F, Maass JM (1998) Efecto de la transformación de la selva a pradera sobre la dinámica de los nutrientes en un ecosistema tropical estacional en México. Bol Soc Bot Mex 62:39–48Google Scholar
  20. García-Oliva F, Martínez-Lugo R, Maass JM (1995) Long-term net soil erosion as determined by 137Cs redistribution in an undisturbed and perturbed tropical deciduous forest ecosystem. Geoderma 68:135–147CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. García-Oliva F, Sveshtarova B, Oliva M (2003) Seasonal effect on soil organic carbon dynamic in a tropical deciduous forest ecosystem in western Mexico. J Trop Ecol 19:1–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hadas A, Sofer M, Molina JE, Barak P, Clapp CE (1992) Assimilation of nitrogen by soil microbial population: NH4 versus organic N. Soil Biol Biochem 24:137–143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hart S, Nason GE, Myrolod D, Perry DA (1994) Dynamics of gross nitrogen transformations in an old-growth forest: the carbon connection. Ecology 75:880–891CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Jansson SL (1958) Tracer studies on nitrogen transformation in soil with special attention to mineralization-immobilization relationships. Ann Royal Agric Coll Sw 24:101–361Google Scholar
  25. Jaramillo VJ, Sanford Jr RL (1995) Nutrient cycling in tropical deciduous forest. In: Bullock SH, Mooney HA, Medina E (eds) Seasonally dry tropical forest. University Press, Cambridge, pp. 346–361Google Scholar
  26. Jha PB, Singh JS, Kashyap AK (1996) Dynamics of viable nitrifier community and nutrient availability in dry tropical forest habitat as affected by cultivation and soil texture. Plant Soil 180:277–285CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Joergensen RG (1996) The fumigation-extraction method to estimate soil microbial biomass: calibration of the k EC value. Soil Biol Biochem 28:25–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Joergensen RG, Mueller T (1996) The fumigation-extraction method to estimate soil microbial biomass: calibration of the k EN value. Soil Biol Biochem 28:33–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Jones DL, Healey JR, Willett VB, Farrar JF, Hodge A (2005) Dissolved organic nitrogen uptake by plants an important N uptake pathway? Soil Biol Biochem 37:413–423CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Jones DL, Willett VB (2006) Experimental evaluation of methods to quantify dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in soil. Soil Biol Biochem 38:991–999CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kummerow J, Castellanos J, Maass JM, Larigauderie A (1990) Production of fine roots and the seasonality of their growth in a Mexican tropical dry forest. Vegetatio 90:73–80CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lodge DJ, Mcdowell WH, McSwiney CP (1994) The importance of nutrient pulses in tropical forests. Trends Ecol Evol 9:384–387CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. López-Blanco J, Galicia L, García-Oliva F (1999) Hierarchical analysis of relief features in a small watershed in a tropical deciduous forest ecosystem in Mexico. Suppl Geogrf Fis Dinam Quat 22:33–40Google Scholar
  34. Lott EJ (1993) Annotated checklist of the vascular flora of the Chamela Bay region, Jalisco, Mexico. Occ Papers Calif Acad Sci 148:1–60Google Scholar
  35. Luizao RC, Bonde TA, Rosswall T (1992) Seasonal variation of soil microbial biomass. The effects of clearfelling or tropical rainforest and establishment of pasture in the Central Amazon. Soil Biol Biochem 8:805–813CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Maass JM, Jaramillo VJ, Martínez-Yrízar A, García-Oliva F, Pérez-Jiménez A, Sarukhán J (2002) Aspectos funcionales del ecosistema de la selva baja caducifolia en Chamela, Jalisco. In: Noguera FA, Vega JH, García A, Quezada M (eds) Historia Natural de Chamela. Instituto de Biología, UNAM, Mexico City, pp. 525–551Google Scholar
  37. Martínez-Yrízar A (1995) Biomass distribution and primary productivity of tropical dry forest. In: Bullock SH, Mooney HA, Medina E (eds) Seasonally dry tropical forest. University Press, Cambridge, pp. 327–345Google Scholar
  38. Martínez-Yrízar A, Maass JM, Pérez-Jiménez A, Sarukhán J (1996) Net primary productivity of a tropical deciduous forest ecosystem in western Mexico. J Trop Ecol 12:169–175CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Neff JC, Asner GP (2001) Dissolved organic carbon in terrestrial ecosystems: synthesis and a model. Ecosystems 4:29–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Paul EA, Clark FE (1989) Soil microbiology and biochemistry. Academic Press, San Diego, Calif, p. 273Google Scholar
  41. Raghubanshi AS (1992) Effect of topography on selected soil properties and nitrogen mineralization in a dry tropical forest. Soil Biol Biochem 24:145–150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Robertson PG, Coleman DC, Bledsoe CS, Sollins P (1999) Standard soil methods for long-term ecological research (LTER). University Press, Oxford, New York, pp. 258–271Google Scholar
  43. Roy S, Singh JS (1995) Seasonal and spatial dynamics of plant-available N and P pools and N-mineralization in relation to fine roots in a dry tropical forest habitat. Soil Biol Biochem 27:33–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Saynes V, Hidalgo C, Etchevers J, Campo J (2005) Soil C and N dynamics in primary and secondary seasonally dry tropical forests in Mexico. Appl Soil Ecol 29:282–289CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Schimel JP, Bennett J (2004) Nitrogen mineralization: challenges of a changing paradigm. Ecology 85:591–602CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Schimel JP, Weintraub MN (2003) The implications of exoenzyme activity on microbial C and N limitation in soil: a theoretical model. Soil Biol Biochem 35:549–563CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Singh JS, Kashyap AK (2006) Dynamics of viable nitrifier community, N mineralization and nitrification in seasonally dry tropical forests and savanna. Microbiol Res 161:169–179PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Singh JS, Raghubanshi AS, Singh RS, Srivastava SC (1989) Microbial biomass acts as a source of plant nutrients in dry tropical forest and savanna. Nature 338:499–500CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Sokal RR, Rohlf FJ (1995) Bometry. Freeman and Company, San Francisco, Calif, p. 832Google Scholar
  50. Solís E (1993) Características fisicoquímicas de un suelo en un ecosistema tropical estacional Bs. Thesis, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, México City, Mexico, p 91Google Scholar
  51. Srivastava SC (1992) Microbial C, N and P in dry tropical soils: seasonal changes and influence of soil moisture. Soil Biol Biochem 24:711–714CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. StatSoft (2000) Statistica ver. 6.0. for Windows [Computer program manual]. Tulsa, OKGoogle Scholar
  53. Strauss EA, Lamberti G (2002) Effect of dissolved organic carbon quality on microbial decomposition and nitrification rates in stream sediments. Freshw Biol 47:65–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Technicon (1977) Technicon industrial System. Method No. 329–74W/B Individual/simultaneous determinations of nitrogen and/or phosphorus in BD acid digest. Technicon Industrial Systems, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  55. UIC (1995) Operation manual for the CM5012 CO2 Colourmeter. UIC Joliet IL, USAGoogle Scholar
  56. Vance ED, Brookes AC, Jenkinson DS (1987) An extraction method for measuring soil microbial biomass C. Soil Biol Biochem 19:703–707CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Verhagen FJ, Laanbroek HJ (1991) Competition for ammonium between nitrifying and heterotrophic bacteria in dual energy-limited chemostats. App Environ Microbiol 57:3255–3263Google Scholar
  58. Vitousek P, Matson PM (1988) Nitrogen transformations in a range of tropical forest soils. Soil Biol Biochem 20:361–367CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Vitousek P, Matson PM, Volkmann C, Maass JM, García-Méndez G (1989) Nitrous oxide flux from dry tropical forests. Global Biogeochem Cycles 3:375–382CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. von Ende CN (1993) Repeated measures analysis: growth and other time-dependent measures. In: Scheiner SM, Gurevitch J (eds) Design and analysis of ecological experiments. Chapman and Hall, New York, USA, pp. 113–137Google Scholar
  61. Wardle DA (1992) A comparative assessment of the factors which influence microbial biomass carbon and nitrogen levels in soil. Biol Rev 67:321–358Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Noé Manuel Montaño
    • 1
  • Felipe García-Oliva
    • 1
    Email author
  • Víctor J. Jaramillo
    • 1
  1. 1.Centro de Investigaciones en EcosistemasUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoMoreliaMexico

Personalised recommendations