Divergence of dominant factors in soil microbial communities and functions in forest ecosystems along a climatic gradient
Soil microorganisms play an important role in regulating nutrient cycling in terrestrial ecosystems. Most of the studies conducted thus far have been confined to a single forest biome or have focused on one or two controlling factors, and few have dealt with the integrated effects of climate, vegetation, and soil substrate availability on soil microbial communities and functions among different forests. In this study, we used phospholipid-derived fatty acid (PLFA) analysis to investigate soil microbial community structure and extracellular enzymatic activities to evaluate the functional potential of soil microbes of different types of forests in three different climatic zones along the north–south transect in eastern China (NSTEC). Both climate and forest type had significant effects on soil enzyme activities and microbial communities with considerable interactive effects. Except for soil acid phosphatase (AP), the other three enzyme activities were much higher in the warm temperate zone than in the temperate and the subtropical climate zones. The soil total PLFAs and bacteria were much higher in the temperate zone than in the warm temperate and the subtropical zones. The soil β-glucosidase (BG) and N-acetylglucosaminidase (NAG) activities were highest in the coniferous forest. Except for the soil fungi and fungi–bacteria (F/B), the different groups of microbial PLFAs were much higher in the conifer broad-leaved mixed forests than in the coniferous forests and the broad-leaved forests. In general, soil enzyme activities and microbial PLFAs were higher in primary forests than in secondary forests in temperate and warm temperate regions. In the subtropical region, soil enzyme activities were lower in the primary forests than in the secondary forests and microbial PLFAs did not differ significantly between primary and secondary forests. Different compositions of the tree species may cause variations in soil microbial communities and enzyme activities. Our results showed that the main controls on soil microbes and functions vary in different climatic zones and that the effects of soil moisture content, soil temperature, clay content, and the soil N ∕ P ratio were considerable. This information will add value to the modeling of microbial processes and will contribute to carbon cycling in large-scale carbon models.