Effect of sheep urine deposition on the bacterial community structure in an acidic upland grassland soil

D. Rooney, N. Kennedy, L. Deering, Deirdre Gleeson, N. Clipson

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    27 Citations (Scopus)


    The effect of the addition of synthetic sheep urine (SSU) and plant species on the bacterial community composition of upland acidic grasslands was studied using a microcosm approach. Low, medium, and high concentrations of SSU were applied to pots containing plant species typical of both unimproved (Agrostis capillaris) and agriculturally improved (Lolium perenne) grasslands, and harvests were carried out 10 days and 50 days after the addition of SSU. SSU application significantly increased both soil pH (P < 0.005), with pH values ranging from pH 5.4 (zero SSU) to pH 6.4 (high SSU), and microbial activity (P < 0.005), with treatment with medium and high levels of SSU displaying significantly higher microbial activity (triphenylformazan dehydrogenase activity) than treatment of soil with zero or low concentrations of SSU. Microbial biomass, however, was not significantly altered by any of the SSU applications. Plant species alone had no effect on microbial biomass or activity. Bacterial community structure was profiled using bacterial automated ribosomal intergenic spacer analysis. Multidimensional scaling plots indicated that applications of high concentrations of SSU significantly altered the bacterial community composition in the presence of plant species but at different times: 10 days after application of high concentrations of SSU, the bacterial community composition of L. perenne-planted soils differed significantly from those of any other soils, whereas in the case of A. capillaris-planted soils, the bacterial community composition was different 50 days after treatment with high concentrations of SSU. Canonical correspondence analysis also highlighted the importance of interactions between SSU addition, plant species, and time in the bacterial community structure. This study has shown that the response of plants and bacterial communities to sheep urine deposition in grasslands is dependent on both the grass species present and the concentration of SSU applied, which may have important ecological consequences for agricultural grasslands.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)7231-7237
    JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
    Issue number11
    Publication statusPublished - 2006


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