Terrestrial environment

Nitrogen deposition alters soil chemical properties and bacterial communities in the Inner Mongolia grassland

Ximei Zhang , Xingguo Han


Received August 20, 2011,Revised January 05, 2012, Accepted , Available online August 02, 2012

Volume 24,2012,Pages 1483-1491

Nitrogen deposition has dramatically altered biodiversity and ecosystem functioning on the earth; however, its effects on soil bacterial community and the underlying mechanisms of these effects have not been thoroughly examined. Changes in ecosystems caused by nitrogen deposition have traditionally been attributed to increased nitrogen content. In fact, nitrogen deposition not only leads to increased soil total N content, but also changes in the NH4+-N content, NO3--N content and pH, as well as changes in the heterogeneity of the four indexes. The soil indexes for these four factors, their heterogeneity and even the plant community might be routes through which nitrogen deposition alters the bacterial community. Here, we describe a 6-year nitrogen addition experiment conducted in a typical steppe ecosystem to investigate the ecological mechanism by which nitrogen deposition alters bacterial abundance, diversity and composition. We found that various characteristics of the bacterial community were explained by different environmental factors. Nitrogen deposition decreased bacterial abundance that is positively related to soil pH value. In addition, nitrogen addition decreased bacterial diversity, which is negatively related to soil total N content and positively related to soil NO3--N heterogeneity. Finally, nitrogen addition altered bacterial composition that is significantly related to soil NH4+-N content. Although nitrogen deposition significantly altered plant biomass, diversity and composition, these characteristics of plant community did not have a significant impact on processes of nitrogen deposition that led to alterations in bacterial abundance, diversity and composition. Therefore, more sensitive molecular technologies should be adopted to detect the subtle shifts of microbial community structure induced by the changes of plant community upon nitrogen deposition.

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