Soil N/P and C/P ratio regulate the responses of soil microbial community composition and enzyme activities in a long-term nitrogen loaded Chinese fir forest

  • Fangfang Shen
  • Jianping Wu
  • Houbao FanEmail author
  • Wenfei Liu
  • Xiaomin GuoEmail author
  • Honglang Duan
  • Liang Hu
  • Xueming Lei
  • Xiaohua Wei
Regular Article



Long-term nitrogen (N) fertilization has been shown to profoundly affect the soil microorganisms and strongly result in several imbalances in element concentrations. The objective of this study was to examine links among the soil microorganisms, enzyme activities, and soil carbon (C), N, and phosphorus (P) stoichiometry in a subtropical Chinese fir (Cunninghamia lanceolata (Lamb.) Hook) plantation after continuous N fertilization for 13 years.


This study was performed in 25-year-old fir plantation along a fertilization gradient (0, 60, 120, and 240 kg N ha−1 yr.−1), designated as N0, N1, N2, and N3, respectively. Soil microbial properties, including the microbial community composition, as revealed by phospholipid fatty acids (PLFAs), and soil enzyme activities (i.e., sucrase, urease and catalase) were measured, and soil elemental stoichiometry was calculated based on soil C, N, and P concentrations. A redundancy analysis (RDA) was conducted to determine the relationship between soil C:N:P stoichiometry and soil microbial properties.


Compared with the control (N0), N fertilization decreased the total PLFAs (−12.20%), bacteria (−14.33%), fungi (−12.97%), and actinomycetes (−17.11%) on average. Sucrase, urease and catalase activities were enhanced by low and middle levels of N (N1 and N2), but not with high level of N (N3). Long-term N fertilization decreased soil pH, C to N ratio (C/N), and C to P ratio (C/P), while increased soil C, N and N to P ratio (N/P). The RDA identified the first two axes of soil stoichiometry variation that explained 20.4% of the variation at the soil depth of 0–20 cm, 28.6% at 20–40 cm and 49.9% at 40–60 cm in PLFAs biomarkers and enzymes, respectively. Significant correlations between soil stoichiometry (soil N/P and C/P ratio) and soil microbial properties were found in this study.


These observations suggested that long-term N fertilization influenced soil microbial community composition and enzyme activities by changing the soil C/P and N/P ratios. Future studies are needed to consider the coupling relationships between soil microbial community composition, enzyme activities and elemental stoichiometry in different ecosystems under future climatic change.


Long-term nitrogen fertilization Soil microbial communities Enzyme activities Soil C:N:P stoichiometry Chinese fir plantation 



This work was funded by the National Science Foundation of China (grant nos. 31570444, 31360175, and 31200406), Gan-Po 555 Talent Project, Jiangxi Provincial Fund for Academic and Technical Leadership of Major Disciplines (grant no. 20162BCB22021) and the Education Department of Jiangxi Province (grant no. GJJ161118). Supported by CFERN & GENE Award Funds on Ecological paper. We are grateful to Jihai Zhou, Wenfeng Zhang, Qidong Wo, Xuechen Lei, Xiantao Hu, Ziwen Zhang, Qingyin Meng, Zonggui Zheng for their assistance in the field work.

Author contributions

FFS, JPW, HBF, WFL and XMG conceived and designed the experiments. FFS, JPW and WFL, XML, LH performed the experiments. FFS, HLD and XML analyzed the data. FFS, JPW, and HBF wrote the manuscript. XHW edited the English throughout the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary material

11104_2018_3912_MOESM1_ESM.docx (611 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 611 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fangfang Shen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jianping Wu
    • 3
  • Houbao Fan
    • 1
    Email author
  • Wenfei Liu
    • 1
  • Xiaomin Guo
    • 2
    Email author
  • Honglang Duan
    • 1
  • Liang Hu
    • 1
  • Xueming Lei
    • 1
  • Xiaohua Wei
    • 4
  1. 1.Jiangxi Provincial Key Laboratory for Restoration of Degraded Ecosystems & Watershed EcohydrologyNanchang Institute of TechnologyNanchangChina
  2. 2.Jiangxi Provincial Key Laboratory of Silviculture, College of ForestJiangxi Agricultural UniversityNanchangChina
  3. 3.Laboratory of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, State key Laboratory for Conservation and Utilization of Bio-Resources in YunnanYunnan UniversityKunmingChina
  4. 4.Earth and Environmental Science DepartmentUniversity of British Columbia (Okanagan)KelownaCanada

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