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PLoS One. 2018 May 24;13(5):e0196567. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0196567. eCollection 2018.

Dynamics of soil nitrogen fractions and their relationship with soil microbial communities in two forest species of northern China.

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Key Laboratory of Plant Nutrition and the Agri-environment in Northwest China, Ministry of Agriculture, College of Resource and Environment Science, Northwest A&F University, Yangling, China.
State Key Laboratory of Soil Erosion and Dryland Farming on Loess Plateau, Northwest A&F University, Yangling, China.


Microbially-mediated soil N mineralization and transformation are crucial to plant growth. However, changes in soil microbial groups and various N components are not clearly understood. To explore the relationship between soil N components and microbial communities, we conducted an in-situ experiment on two typically planted forest species, namely, Sibirica Apricot (SA) and Prunus davidiana Franch (PdF) by using closed-top polyvinyl chloride tubes. Changes in soil inorganic N, organic N (ON) fractions, and levels of microbial phospholipid fatty acids (PLFAs) were measured bimonthly from April 2012 to April 2013. Microbial PLFAs and the concentrations of easily-available microbial biomass N (MBN; ~60 mg kg-1), soluble ON (SON; ~20 mg kg-1), and inorganic N were similar between the two soils whereas the ON (~900 mg kg-1) and its major part total acid-hydrolyzable N (HTN; ~500 mg kg-1), were significantly different (p < 0.05) in most months (5/6 and 4/6; respectively). The canonical correlation analysis of soil N fractions and microbial parameters indicated that the relationship between total PLFAs (total biomass of living cells) and NH4+-N was the most representative. The relative contributions (indicated by the absolute value of canonical coefficient) of NH4+-N were the largest, followed by NO3--N and MBN. For the HTN component, the relative percentage of hydrolyzable amino acid N and ammonium N decreased markedly in the first half of the year. Canonical variation mainly reflected the relationship between ammonium N and bacterial PLFAs, which were the most sensitive indicators related to soil N changes. The relative contributions of HTN components to the link between soil microbial groups and HTN components were ammonium N > amino acid N > amino sugar N. Observations from our study indicate the sensitivity of soil N mineralization indicators in relation to the temporal variation of soil microbial groups and N fractions.

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