Plant and Soil

, Volume 318, Issue 1–2, pp 81–91 | Cite as

Site identity and moss species as determinants of soil microbial community structure in Norway spruce forests across three vegetation zones

  • Lisbet Holm BachEmail author
  • Åsa Frostegård
  • Mikael Ohlson
Regular Article


Soil microbial community structure was investigated by PLFA-analysis in four spruce forests in Norway. The maximum latitudinal distance between the sites was approximately 350 km. Bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus dominated the forest floor vegetation in the study sites, which were selected because of the vegetation type. Soil samples were taken from all four sites under close to 100% homogeneous ground cover of each of two feathermoss species, i.e. Hylocomium splendens or Pleurozium schreberi, respectively. These mosses are ubiquitous in the boreal forest and constitute an abundant component of the forest floor vegetation over vast areas. Since there are no studies on how these mosses affect soil microbial community structure, our first aim was to investigate the effect of moss species on soil microbial communities. Our second aim was to investigate whether microbial communities differ among geographically separated forest sites with similar vegetation across vegetation zones. Soil microbial community structure differed between the study sites, although they appeared similar in terms of vegetation and abiotic soil conditions. Study site was the most important predictor of the variation in the PLFAs, more important than moss species, although there was a tendency for separation of microbial community structure between the two moss species.


Boreal forest Feathermosses Hylocomium splendens Picea abies Pleurozium schreberi PLFA 



We thank the Research Council of Norway for financial support. Steen Ravn Andersen helped in the field, John-Arvid Grytnes gave statistical advice and Vilma Bischof improved the English.


  1. Bach LH, Frostegård Å, Ohlson M (2008) Variation in soil microbial communities across a boreal spruce forest landscape. Can J For Res 38:1504–1516CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Benscoter BW, Vitt DH (2007) Evaluating feathermoss growth: a challenge to traditional methods and implications for the boreal carbon budget. J Ecol 95:151–158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bisbee KE, Gower ST, Norman JM, Nordheim EV (2001) Environmental controls on ground cover species composition and productivity in a boreal black spruce forest. Oecologia 129:261–270CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bond-Lamberty B, Gower ST (2007) Estimation of stand-level leaf area for boreal bryophytes. Oecologia 151:584–592PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bradley RL, Fyles JW (1995) Growth of paper birch (Betula papyrifera) seedlings increases soil available C and microbial acquisition of soil-nutrients. Soil Biol Biochem 27:1565–1571CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Buckley DH, Schmidt TM (2002) Exploring the biodiversity of soil—A microbial rain forest. In: Staley JT, Reysenbach A-L (eds) Biodiversity of microbial life: Foundation of Earth's biosphere. Wiley.Liss, Inc., New York, pp 183–208Google Scholar
  7. Carletti P, Vendramin E, Pizzeghello D, Concheri G, Zanella A, Nardi S, Squartini A (2008) Soil humic compounds and microbial communities in six spruce forests as function of parent material, slope aspect and stand age. Plant Soil, online firstGoogle Scholar
  8. Carreiro MM, Koske RE (1992) Effect of temperature on decomposition and development of microfungal communities in leaf litter microcosms. Can J Bot 70:2177–2183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chapin FS, Oechel WC, van Cleve K, Lawrence W (1987) The role of mosses in the phosphorus cycling of an Alaskan black spruce forest. Oecologia 74:310–315CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cornelissen JHC, Lang SI, Soudzilovskaia NA, During HJ (2007) Comparative cryptogam ecology: a review of bryophyte and lichen traits that drive biogeochemistry. Ann Bot 99:987–1001PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. DeLuca TH, Zackrisson O, Nilsson M-C, Sellstedt A (2002) Quantifying nitrogen-fixation in feather moss carpets of boreal forests. Nature 419:917–920PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Drenovsky RE, Vo D, Graham KJ, Scow KM (2004) Soil water content and organic carbon availability are major determinants of soil microbial community composition. Microb Ecol 48:424–430PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fierer N, Jackson RB (2006) The diversity and biogeography of soil bacterial communities. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 103:626–631PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Frostegård Å, Bååth E (1996) The use of phospholipid analysis to estimate bacterial and fungal biomass in soil. Biol Fertil Soils 22:59–65CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Frostegård Å, Tunlid A, Bååth E (1991) Microbial biomass measured as total lipid phosphate in soils of different organic content. J Microbiol Methods 14:151–163CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Frostegård Å, Bååth E, Tunlid A (1993a) Shifts in the structure of soil microbial communities in limed forests as revealed by phospholipid fatty acid analysis. Soil Biol Biochem 25:723–730CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Frostegård Å, Tunlid A, Bååth E (1993b) Phospholipid fatty acid composition, biomass and activity of microbial communities from two soil types experimentally exposed to different heavy metals. Appl Environ Microbiol 59:3605–3617PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Fyles JW, McGill WB (1987) Decomposition of boreal forest litters from central Alberta under laboratory conditions. Can J For Res 17:109–114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Glime JM (2001) The role of bryophytes in temperate forest ecosystems. Hikobia 13:267–289Google Scholar
  20. Gower ST, Krankina O, Olson RJ, Apps M, Linder S, Wang C (2001) Net primary production and carbon allocation patterns of boreal forest ecosystems. Ecol Appl 11:1395–1411CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gower ST, Vogel JG, Norman JM, Kucharik CJ, Steele SJ, Stow TK (1997) Carbon distribution and aboveground net primary production in aspen, jack pine, and black spruce stands in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, Canada. J Geophys Res 102:29029–29041CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Grayston SJ, Campbell CD (1996) Functional biodiversity of microbial communities in the rhizospheres of hybrid larch (Larix eurolepis) and sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis). Tree Physiol 16:1031–1038PubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Grayston SJ, Prescott CE (2005) Microbial communities in forest floors under four tree species in coastal British Columbia. Soil Biol Biochem 37:1157–1167CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Grønli K, Frostegård Å, Bakken LR, Ohlson M (2005) Nutrient and carbon additions to the microbial soil community and its impact on tree seedlings in a boreal spruce forest. Plant Soil 278:275–291CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hedlund BP, Staley JT (2004) Microbial endemism and biogeography. In: Bull AT (ed) Microbial diversity and bioprospecting. ASM, Washington, pp 225–231Google Scholar
  26. Högberg MN, Högberg P, 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
  27. Jia Y, Bakken LR, Breedveld GD, Aagaard P, Frostegård Å (2006) Organic compounds that reach subsoil may threaten groundwater quality; effect of benzotriazole on degradation kinetics and microbial community composition. Soil Biol Biochem 38:2543–2556CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kolari P, Pumpanen J, Kulmala L, Ilvesniemi H, Nikinmaa E, Grönholm T, Hari P (2006) Forest floor vegetation plays an important role in photosynthetic production of boreal forests. For Ecol Manage 221:241–248Google Scholar
  29. 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, London, pp 173–199Google Scholar
  30. Lagerström A, Nilsson MC, Zackrisson O, Wardle DA (2007) Ecosystem input of nitrogen through biological fixation in feather mosses during ecosystem retrogression. Func Ecol 21:1027–1033CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lechevalier MP (1977) Lipids in bacterial taxonomy—a taxonomists view. Crit Rev Microbiol 5:109–210CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Leckie SE, Prescott CE, Grayston SJ, Neufeld JD, Mohn WW (2004) Characterization of humus microbial communities in adjacent forest types that differ in nitrogen availability. Microb Ecol 48:29–40PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Martiny JBH, Bohannan BJM, Brown JH, Colwell RK, Fuhrman JA, Green JL, Horner-Devine MC, Kane M, Krumins JA, Kuske CR, Morin PJ, Naeem S, Øvreås L, Reysenbach AL, Smith VH, Staley JT (2006) Microbial biogeography: putting microorganisms on the map. Nat Rev Micro 4:102–112CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Moen A (1999) National Atlas of Norway: vegetation. Norwegian Mapping Authority, HønefossGoogle Scholar
  35. Nilsson LO, Giesler R, Bååth E, Wallander H (2005) Growth and biomass of mycorrhizal mycelia in coniferous forests along short natural nutrient gradients. New Phytol 165:613–622PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Nordbakken JF, Ohlson M, Högberg P (2003) Boreal bog plants: nitrogen sources and uptake of recently deposited nitrogen. Environ Pollut 126:191–200PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Oechel WC, van Cleve K (1986) The role of bryophytes in nutrient cycling in the taiga. In: van Cleve K, Chapin FS III, Flanagan PW, Viereck LA, Dyrness CT (eds) Forest ecosystems in the Alaskan taiga: a synthesis of structure and function. Springer-Verlag, New York, pp 121–137Google Scholar
  38. Økland RH, Økland T, Rydgren K (2001) Vegetation-environment relationships of boreal spruce swamp forests in Østmarka Nature Reserve, SE Norway. Sommerfeltia 29:1–190Google Scholar
  39. Økland RH, Rydgren K, Økland T (1999) Single-tree influence on understorey vegetation in a Norwegian boreal spruce forest. OIKOS 87:488–498CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Opelt K, Berg C, Schönmann S, Eberl L, Berg G (2007) High specificity but contrasting biodiversity of Sphagnum-associated bacterial and plant communities in bog ecosystems independent of the geographical region. ISME 1:502–516CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. O Leary WM, Wilkinson SG (1988) Gram-positive bacteria. In: Ratledge C, Wilkinson SG (eds) Microbial lipids. Academic, London, pp 117–202Google Scholar
  42. Palviainen M, Finér L, Mannerkoski H, Piirainen S, Starr M (2005) Responses of ground vegetation species to clear-cutting in a boreal forest: aboveground biomass and nutrient contents during the first 7 years. Ecol Res 20:652–660CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Pennanen T, Liski J, Bååth E, Kitunen V, Uotila J, Westman CJ, Fritze H (1999) Structure Structure of the microbial communities in coniferous forest soils in relation to site fertility and stand development stage. Microb Ecol 38:168–179PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Petterson M, Bååth E (2003) Temperature-dependent changes in the soil bacterial community in limed and unlimed soil. FEMS Microbiol Ecol 45:13–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Pietikainen J, Tikka PJ, Valkonen S, Isomaki A, Fritze H (2007) Is the soil microbial community related to the basal area of trees in a Scots pine stand? Soil Biol Biochem 39:1832–1834CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Priha O, Grayston SJ, Hiukka R, Pennanen T, Smolander A (2001) Microbial community structure and characteristics of the organic matter in soils under Pinus sylvestris, Picea abies and Betula pendula at two forests sites. Biol Fertil Soils 33:17–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Quemada M, Cabrera ML (1997) Temperature and moisture effects on C and N mineralization from surface applied clover residue. Plant Soil 189:127–137CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Rantalainen M-L, Kontiola L, Haimi J, Fritze H, Setälä H (2004) Influence of resource quality on the composition of soil decomposer community in a fragmented and continuous landscape. Soil Biol Biochem 36:1983–1996CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Rao DLN, Burns RG (1990) The effect of surface growth of blue-green algae and bryophytes on some microbiological, biochemical and physical soil properties. Biol Fertil Soils 9:239–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. 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
  51. Rice WR (1989) Analyzing tables of statistical tests. Evolution 43:223–225CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Rydgren K, Økland RH, Hestmark G (2004) Disturbance severity and community resilience in a boreal forest. Ecology 85:1906–1915CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Saetre P, Bååth E (2000) Spatial variation and patterns of soil microbial community structure in a mixed spruce-birch stand. Soil Biol Biochem 32:909–917CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Schimel JP, Gulledge JM, Clein-Curley JS, Lindstrom JE, Braddock JF (1999) Moisture effects on microbial activity and community structure in decomposing birch litter in the Alaskan taiga. Soil Biol Biochem 31:831–838CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Sedia EG, Ehrenfeld JG (2005) Differential effects of lichens, mosses and grasses on respiration and nitrogen mineralization in soils of the New Jersey Pinelands. Oecologia 144:137–147PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Sedia EG, Ehrenfeld JG (2006) Differential effects of lichens and mosses on soil enzyme activity and litter decomposition. Biol Fertil Soils 43:177–189CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Turetsky MR (2003) The role of bryophytes in carbon and nitrogen cycling. The Bryologist 106:395–409CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Vitt DH (1990) Growth and production dynamics of boreal mosses over climatic, chemical and topographic gradients. Bot J Linn Soc 104:35–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Wilkinson SG (1988) Gram-negative bacteria. In: Ratledge C, Wilkinson SG (eds) Microbial lipids. Academic, London, pp 299–488Google Scholar
  60. Wilkinson SC, Anderson JM, Scardelis SP, Tisiafouli M, Taylor A, Wolters V (2002) PLFA profiles of microbial communities in decomposing conifer litters subject to moisture stress. Soil Biol Biochem 34:189–200CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Zackrisson O, Nilsson M-C, Steijlen I, Hörnberg G (1995) Regeneration pulses and climate-vegetation interactions in nonpyrogenic boreal scots pine stands. J Ecol 83:469–483CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Zechmeister HG (1998) Annual growth of four pleurocarpous moss species and their applicability for biomonitoring heavy metals. Environ Monit Assess 52:441–451CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Zelles L (1997) Phospholipid fatty acid profiles in selected members of soil microbial communities. Chemosphere 35:275–294PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Zogg GP, Zak DR, Ringelberg DB, MacDonald NW, Pregitzer KS, White DC (1997) Compositional and functional shifts in microbial communities due to soil warming. Soil Sci Soc Am J 61:475–481Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lisbet Holm Bach
    • 1
    Email author
  • Åsa Frostegård
    • 2
  • Mikael Ohlson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Natural Resource ManagementNorwegian University of Life SciencesÅsNorway
  2. 2.Department of Chemistry, Biotechnology and Food ScienceNorwegian University of Life sciencesÅsNorway

Personalised recommendations