Microbial Ecology

, Volume 76, Issue 4, pp 1030–1040 | Cite as

Microbial Decomposer Dynamics: Diversity and Functionality Investigated through a Transplantation Experiment in Boreal Forests

  • Alessia Bani
  • Luigimaria Borruso
  • Flavio Fornasier
  • Silvia Pioli
  • Camilla Wellstein
  • Lorenzo Brusetti
Soil Microbiology


Litter decomposition is the main source of mineral nitrogen (N) in terrestrial ecosystem and a key step in carbon (C) cycle. Microbial community is the main decomposer, and its specialization on specific litter is considered at the basis of higher decomposition rate in its natural environment than in other forests. However, there are contrasting evidences on how the microbial community responds to a new litter input and if the mass loss is higher in natural environment. We selected leaf litter from three different plant species across three sites of different altitudinal ranges: oak (Quercus petraea (Matt.) Liebl., 530 m a.s.l), beech (Fagus sylvatica L., 1000 m a.s.l.), rhododendron (Rhododendron ferrugineum L., 1530 m a.s.l.). A complete transplantation experiment was set up within the native site and the other two altitudinal sites. Microbial community structure was analyzed via amplified ribosomal intergenic spacer analysis (ARISA) fingerprinting. Functionality was investigated by potential enzyme activities. Chemical composition of litter was recorded. Mass loss showed no faster decomposition rate on native site. Similarly, no influence of site was found on microbial structure, while there was a strong temporal variation. Potential enzymatic activities were not affected by the same temporal pattern with a general increase of activities during autumn. Our results suggested that no specialization in microbial community is present due to the lack of influence of the site in structure and in the mass loss dynamics. Finally, different temporal patterns in microbial community and potential enzymatic activities suggest the presence of functional redundancy within decomposers.


Bacterial community Fungal community Potential hydrolytic activities Alpine region Functional redundancy 



We thank Dr. Christian Ceccon for C and N quantification, and Dr. Maurizio Ventura for providing the data information of Monticolo site. This work was supported by the internal grant by the Free University of Bozen/Bolzano entitled “Leaves degradation in mountain environments - LeDEME” (CUP I52I14000410005). We thank Prof. Giustino Tonon for the access to the Monticolo site area, managed under the NITROFOR project.

Author Contribution

LBr conceived the study. AB, LB, SP and CW conducted the fieldwork. AB conducted the molecular and chemical analysis, AB and FF performed enzyme analysis. Statistical analysis was performed by AB and LB. AB drafted the manuscript. All authors read, edited and approved the manuscript.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Science and TechnologyFree University of Bozen/Bolzano, Piazza Università 5BolzanoItaly
  2. 2.CREA Council for Research and Experimentation in AgricultureGoriziaItaly

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