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PLoS One. 2013 Jun 11;8(6):e66184. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0066184. Print 2013.

Variations in soil microbial communities and residues along an altitude gradient on the northern slope of changbai mountain, china.

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State Key Laboratory of Forest and Soil Ecology, Institute of Applied Ecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shenyang, PR China.


Altitudinally-defined climate conditions provide specific vegetation types and soil environments that could influence soil microbial communities, which in turn may affect microbial residues. However, the knowledge is limited in terms of the degree to which microbial communities and residues present and differ along altitude. In this study, we examined the soil microbial communities and residues along the northern slope of Changbai Mountain, China using phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) and amino sugar analysis, respectively. Soil samples were taken from five different vegetation belts defined by climates. Principal component analysis (PCA) revealed substantial differences in soil microbial community composition among study sites, appeared to be driven primarily by soil pH and C/N ratio on the first principal component (PC1) which accounted for 50.7% of the total sample variance. The alpine tundra was separated from forest sites on the second principal component (PC2) by a signifiscantly higher amount of fungal PLFA (18:2ω6,9). Soil pH and C/N ratio were also correlated with the ratios of Gram-positive to Gram-negative bacteria (Gm(+)/Gm(-)), glucosamine to galactosamine (GluN/GalN), and glucosamine to muramic acid (GluN/MurA). Both total PLFAs and amino sugars were positively correlated with soil organic carbon, inorganic nitrogen, available phosphorus and potassium. We concluded that soil pH and C/N ratio were the most important drivers for microbial community structure and amino sugar pattern, while substrate availability was of great importance in determining the concentrations of microbial communities and residues. These findings could be used to facilitate interpretation of soil microbial community and amino sugar data derived from measurements in latitude or managed forests.

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