Plant and Soil

, Volume 387, Issue 1–2, pp 103–116 | Cite as

Soil C:N ratio is the major determinant of soil microbial community structure in subtropical coniferous and broadleaf forest plantations

  • Xiaohua Wan
  • Zhiqun Huang
  • Zongming He
  • Zaipeng Yu
  • Minhuang Wang
  • Murray R. Davis
  • Yusheng Yang
Regular Article



This study aimed to determine the influence of tree species on soil microbial community structure.


We conducted a litter and root manipulation and a short-term nitrogen (N) addition experiment in 19-year-old broadleaf Mytilaria laosensis (Hamamelidaceae) and coniferous Chinese fir (Cunninghamia lanceolata) plantations in subtropical China. Phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) analysis was used to examine treatment effects on soil microbial community structure. Redundancy analysis (RDA) was performed to determine the relationships between individual PLFAs and soil properties (soil pH, carbon (C) and N concentration and C:N ratio).


Soil C:N ratio was significantly greater in M. laosensis (17.9) than in C. lanceolata (16.2). Soil C:N ratio was the key factor affecting the soil microbial community regardless of tree species and the litter, root and N treatments at our study site. The fungal biomarkers, 18:1ω9 and 18:2ω6,9 were significantly and positively related to soil C:N ratio and the abundance of bacterial lipid biomarkers was negatively related to soil C:N ratio. N addition for 8 months did not change the biomass and structure of the microbial community in M. laosensis and C. lanceolata soils. Soil nutrient availability before N addition was an important factor in determining the effect of N fertilization on soil microbial biomass and activity. PLFA analysis showed that root exclusion significantly decreased the abundance of the fungal biomarkers and increased the abundance of the Gram-positive bacteria. Rootless plots had a relatively lower Gram-positive to Gram-negative bacteria ratio and a higher fungi to bacteria ratio compared to the plots with roots under both M. laosensis and C. lanceolata. The response of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (16:1ω5) to root exclusion was species-specific.


These observations suggest that soil C:N ratio was an important factor in influencing soil microbial community structure. Further studies are required to confirm the long-term effect of tree species on soil microbial community structure.


N addition Phospholipid fatty acids (PLFA) Root exclusion Soil properties Tree species 



The research was supported by a National Natural Science Foundation of China (41371269), 2011 Program for New Century Excellent Talents in the University of Ministry of Education of China, and the Science Foundation for Excellent Talents of Fujian Province, China.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xiaohua Wan
    • 1
  • Zhiqun Huang
    • 1
  • Zongming He
    • 2
  • Zaipeng Yu
    • 1
  • Minhuang Wang
    • 1
  • Murray R. Davis
    • 3
  • Yusheng Yang
    • 1
  1. 1.College of Geographical ScienceFujian Normal UniversityFuzhouChina
  2. 2.College of ForestryFujian Agriculture and Forestry UniversityFuzhouChina
  3. 3.ScionChristchurchNew Zealand

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