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Effects Of Pine Roots On Microorganisms, Fauna, And Nitrogen Availability In Two Soil Horizons Of A Coniferous Forest Spodosol

R. Parmelee, J. Ehrenfeld, R. Tate
Published 2004 · Biology

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SummaryWe investigated the effects of pitch pine seedling roots on extractable N, microbial growth rate, biomass C and N, and nematodes and microarthropods in microcosms with either organic (41% C, 1.14% N) or mineral (0.05% C, 0.01% N) horizon soils of a spondosol. Root quantity was manipulated by varying plant density (0, 1, 2, or 4 seedlings) and rhizosphere soil was separated from non-rhizosphere soil by a 1.2 μm mesh fabric. In the rhizosphere of organic soil horizons, moisture, microbial growth rate, biomass C and N, and extractable N declined as root density was increased, but there was little effect on nematodes or microarthropods. High levels of extractable N remained after 5 months, suggesting that N mineralization was stimulated during the incubation. In the rhizosphere of mineral soil horizons, microbial growth rate, and nematode and microarthropod abundances increased at higher root density, and in the absence of roots faunal abundance approached zero. Faunal activity was concentrated in the rhizosphere compared to non-rhizosphere soil. In organic soil horizons, roots may limit microbial activity by reducing soil moisture and/or N availability. However, in mineral soil horizons, where nutrient levels are very low, root inputs can stimulate microbial growth and faunal abundance by providing important substrates for microbial growth. Our results demonstrate a rhizosphere effect for soil fauna in the mineral soil, and thus extends the rhizosphere concept to components of the soil community other than microbes for forest ecosystems. Although our results need to be verified by field manipulations, we suggest that the effects of pine roots on nutrient cycling processes in coniferous forests can vary with soil nutrient content and, therefore, position in the soil profile.
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