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Soil Microbial Communities In (sub)alpine Grasslands Indicate A Moderate Shift Towards New Environmental Conditions 11 Years After Soil Translocation

Karen Budge, J. Leifeld, M. Egli, J. Fuhrer
Published 2011 · Environmental Science

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A change in environmental conditions may result in altered soil microbial communities in alpine grasslands but the extent and direction of the change is largely unknown. The aim of our study was to investigate (i) differences in soil microbial communities across an elevation gradient of (sub)alpine grassland soils in the Swiss Alps, and (ii) the long-term effect of translocation of soil cores from a higher to a lower elevation site. The translocation of undisturbed soil cores from a high alpine site (2525 m asl) to a subalpine site near the timberline (1895 m asl) induced an effective artificial warming of 3.3 °C. We hypothesized that after longer than a decade, soil microbial community in translocated cores would differ from that at the original site but resemble the community at the new site. Results from soil phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) analysis confirm significant differences in microbial communities between sites and a shift in total microbial biomass (TMB) and proportional distribution of structural groups in the translocated cores towards the lower elevation community. Patterns related to translocation were also observed as shifts in the fractional biomass of ectomycorrhizal and arbuscular fungi, and in relative contents of several structural groups. Hence, soil microbial community activity and diversity indicate a moderate shift towards new site conditions after 11 years and therefore, our data suggest slow responses of microbial communities to environmental changes in alpine soils.
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