Bacterial, archaeal and eukaryal community structures throughout soil horizons of harvested and naturally disturbed forest stands

Authors


*E-mail wmohn@interchange.ubc.ca; Tel. (+1) 604 822 4285; Fax (+1) 604 822 6041.

Summary

Disturbances caused by timber harvesting have critical long-term effects on the forest soil microbiota and alter fundamental ecosystem services provided by these communities. This study assessed the effects of organic matter removal and soil compaction on microbial community structures in different soil horizons 13 years after timber harvesting at the long-term soil productivity site at Skulow Lake, British Columbia. A harvested stand was compared with an unmanaged forest stand. Ribosomal intergenic spacer profiles of bacteria, archaea and eukarya indicated significantly different community structures in the upper three soil horizons of the two stands, with differences decreasing with depth. Large-scale sequencing of the ribosomal intergenic spacers coupled to small-subunit ribosomal RNA genes allowed taxonomic identification of major microbial phylotypes affected by harvesting or varying among soil horizons. Actinobacteria and Gemmatimonadetes were the predominant phylotypes in the bacterial profiles, with the relative abundance of these groups highest in the unmanaged stand, particularly in the deeper soil horizons. Predominant eukaryal phylotypes were mainly assigned to known mycorrhizal and saprotrophic species of Basidiomycetes and Ascomycetes. Harvesting affected Basidiomycetes to a minor degree but had stronger effects on some Ascomycetes. Archaeal profiles had low diversity with only a few predominant crenarchaeal phylotypes whose abundance appeared to increase with depth. Detection of these effects 13 years after harvesting may indicate a long-term change in processes mediated by the microbial community with important consequences for forest productivity. These effects warrant more comprehensive investigation of the effects of harvesting on the structure of forest soil microbial communities and the functional consequences.

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