Impact of ecosystem management on microbial community level physiological profiles of postmining forest rehabilitation

William Cookson, Alison O'Donnell, C.D. Grant, Pauline Grierson, Daniel Murphy

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We investigated the impacts of forest thinning, prescribed fire, and contour ripping on community level physiological profiles (CLPP) of the soil microbial population in postmining forest rehabilitation. We hypothesized that these management practices would affect CLPP via an influence on the quality and quantity of soil organic matter. The study site was an area of Jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata Donn ex Sm.) forest rehabilitation that had been mined for bauxite 12 years previously. Three replicate plots (20x20 m) were established in nontreated forest and in forest thinned from 3,000-8,000 stems ha(-1) to 600-800 stems ha(-1) in April (autumn) of 2003, followed either by a prescribed fire in September (spring) of 2003 or left nonburned. Soil samples were collected in August 2004 from two soil depths (0-5 cm and 5-10 cm) and from within mounds and furrows caused by postmining contour ripping. CLPP were not affected by prescribed fire, although the soil pH and organic carbon (C), total C and total nitrogen (N) contents were greater in burned compared with nonburned plots, and the coarse and fine litter mass lower. However, CLPP were affected by forest thinning, as were fine litter mass, soil C/N ratio, and soil pH, which were all higher in thinned than nonthinned plots. Furrow soil had greater coarse and fine litter mass, and inorganic phosphorous (P), organic P, organic C, total C, total N, ammonium, microbial biomass C contents, but lower soil pH and soil C/N ratio than mound soil. Soil pH, inorganic P, organic P, organic C, total C and N, ammonium, and microbial biomass C contents also decreased with depth, whereas soil C/N ratio increased. Differences in CLPP were largely (94%) associated with the relative utilization of gluconic, malic (greater in nonthinned than thinned soil and mound than furrow soil), L-tartaric, succinic, and uric acids (greater in thinned than nonthinned, mound than furrow, and 5-10 cm than 0-5 cm soil). The relative utilization of amino acids also tended to increase with increasing soil total C and organic C contents but decreased with increasing nitrate content, whereas the opposite was true for carboxylic acids. Only 45% of the variance in CLPP was explained using a multivariate multiple regression model, but soil C and N pools and litter mass were significant predictors of CLPP. Differences in soil textural components between treatments were also correlated with CLPP; likely causes of these differences are discussed. Our results suggest that 1 year after treatment, CLPP from this mined forest ecosystem are resilient to a spring prescribed fire but not forest thinning. We conclude that differences in CLPP are likely to result from complex interactions among soil properties that mediate substrate availability, microbial nutrient demand, and microbial community composition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)online - approx 5-20pp
JournalMicrobial Ecology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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