Ramirez, K. S., C. L. Lauber, R. Knight, M. A. Bradford, and N. Fierer. 2010. Consistent effects of nitrogen fertilization on soil bacterial communities in contrasting systems. Ecology 91:3463-3470.
Ecosystems worldwide are receiving increasing amounts of reactive nitrogen (N) through anthropogenic activities. Although the effects of increased N inputs on plant communities have been reasonably well studied, few comparable studies have examined impacts on whole soil bacterial communities, though they play critical roles in ecosystem functioning. We sampled soils from two long-term ecological research (LTER) experimental N gradients, both of which have been amended with NH4NO3; a grassland at Cedar Creek (27 years of N additions) and an agricultural field at Kellogg Biological Station (8 years of N additions). By examining shifts in bacterial communities across these contrasting ecosystem types, we could test competing hypotheses about the direct and indirect factors that might drive bacterial responses to elevated N inputs. Bacterial community structure was highly responsive to N additions. We observed predictable and consistent changes in the structure of the bacterial communities across both ecosystem types. Our results suggest that bacterial communities across these gradients are more structured by N and/or soil carbon availability than by shifts in the plant community or soil pH associated with the elevated nitrogen inputs. In contrast to the pronounced shifts in bacterial community composition and in direct contrast to the patterns often observed in plant communities, increases in N availability did not have consistent effects on the richness and diversity of soil bacterial communities.
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