Nitrogen Availability and Microbial Communities of Canopy Soils in a Large Cercidiphyllum japonicum Tree of a Cool-Temperate Old Growth Forest


Canopy soils on large trees are important for supporting the lives of many canopy plants, and thereby increasing regional biodiversity. However, because of the less accessibility to canopy soils, there is insufficient knowledge on how canopy soils produce available nitrogen (N) for canopy plants through the activity of canopy soil microbes. Canopy soils usually have different soil properties from ground soils, so we hypothesized that canopy soils would have unique microbial communities compared to ground soils, but still provide available N for canopy plants. Here, we compared soil N availability, including net N mineralization and nitrification rate, and microbial communities between canopy soils (organic soils) collected at various heights of a large Cercidiphyllum japonicum tree and ground soils (organic and mineral soils) in a cool-temperate old-growth forest of Japan. The canopy soils had significantly different N availability (mass-based higher but volume-based lower) and microbial communities from the ground mineral soils. Among organic soils, the height of the soil had an impact on the microbial communities but not on the N availability, which agreed with our hypothesis. Despite the decrease in fungal abundance in the higher soils, the increase in certain components of the cellulose-decomposing fungi and oligotrophic bacteria may contribute to the available N production. Also, the abundance of ammonia-oxidizers did not change with the height, which would be important for the nitrification rate. Our study implied canopy soils could provide N to canopy plants partly through the functional redundancy within different microbial communities and constant population of ammonia-oxidizers.

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We greatly thank Dr. Akira Nakanishi, Mr. Keisuke Nishida, Ms. Yuiko Noguchi, Dr. Hiroaki Ishii, Dr. Mamoru Kanzaki, and members of the Field Science, Education and Research Center (FSERC) of Kyoto University for their substantial contribution to field survey and logistics. We also deeply appreciate Dr. Ryunosuke Tateno and Dr. Keisuke Koba for significant advices on research plan and support for the laboratory analysis, Dr. Keitaro Fukushima and Dr. Masae Ishihara for providing useful information of the study site, and Dr. Hiroaki Ishii for reviewing the early manuscript. Further, we thank Dr. Takeshi Taniguchi, Mr. Masataka Nakayama, and members of the Forest Resources and Society laboratory for cooperation of laboratory analysis. Part of this study was conducted using Cooperative Research Facilities (Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer) of the Center for Ecological Research, Kyoto University. This study was financially supported in part by Grant-in-Aid for JSPS Research Fellow (Grant No. 17J07686), Expo ’90 Foundation, and Kansai Organization for Nature Conservation.

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W.A.A. and C.T. conceived the study and acquired funding. All authors conducted field and laboratory studies. C.T. wrote the original draft and all authors reviewed and edited the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Wakana A. Azuma.

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Tatsumi, C., Azuma, W.A., Ogawa, Y. et al. Nitrogen Availability and Microbial Communities of Canopy Soils in a Large Cercidiphyllum japonicum Tree of a Cool-Temperate Old Growth Forest. Microb Ecol (2021).

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  • Ammonia-oxidizer
  • Canopy humus
  • Fungi
  • Nitrification
  • Nitrogen availability
  • Organic soils
  • Prokaryote