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Journal Article

Impacts of chronic nitrogen additions vary seasonally and by microbial functional group in tundra soils

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Schmidt, S., Lipson, D., Ley, R., Fisk, M., & West, A. (2004). Impacts of chronic nitrogen additions vary seasonally and by microbial functional group in tundra soils. Biogeochemistry, 69(1), 1-17. doi:10.1023/B:BIOG.0000031032.58611.d0.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000B-4381-7
Previous studies have shown that fertilization with nitrogen depresses overall microbial biomass and activity in soil. In the present study we broaden our understanding of this phenomenon by studying the seasonality of responses of specific microbial functional groups to chronic nitrogen additions in alpine tundra soils. We measured soil enzyme activities, mineralization kinetics for 8 substrates, biomass of 8 microbial functional groups, and changes in N and carbon pools in the soil. Our approach allowed us to compare the ability of the soil microbial biomass to utilize various substrates in addition to allowing us to estimate changes in biomass of microbial functional groups that are involved in carbon and nitrogen cycling. Overall microbial activity and biomass was reduced in fertilized plots, whereas pools of N in the soil and microbial biomass N were higher in fertilized plots. The negative effects of N were most prominent in the summer. Biomass of the dominant microbial functional groups recovered in fertilized soils during the winter and nitrogen storage in microbial biomass was higher in fertilized soils in the autumn and winter than in the summer. Microbial immobilization of N may therefore be a significant sink for added N during autumn and winter months when plants are not active. One large microbial group that did not recover in the winter in fertilized soils was phenol mineralizers, possibly indicating selection against microbes with enzyme systems for the breakdown of phenolic compounds and complex soil organic matter. Overall, this work is a step towards understanding how chronic N additions affect the structure and biogeochemical functioning of soil microbial communities.