A comparison of patterns of microbial C : N : P stoichiometry between topsoil and subsoil along an aridity gradient

Liu, Yuqing; Ma, Wenhong; Kou, Dan; Niu, Xiaxia; Wang, Tian; Chen, Yongliang; Chen, Dima; Zhu, Xiaoqin; Zhao, Mengying; Hao, Baihui; Zhang, Jinbo; Yang, Yuanhe; Hu, Huifeng

Microbial stoichiometry and its potential driving factors play crucial roles in understanding the balance of chemical elements in ecological interactions and nutrient limitations along the aridity gradient. However, little is known about the variation in these features along the aridity gradient due to the lack of comprehensive field investigations. Additionally, previous studies focused on the topsoil (0–10 or 0–20 cm); however, the minimum sampling depth for topsoil could impact the results of the vertical distribution of microbial stoichiometry. In the present study, we measured the variation in microbial stoichiometry, examined the major influential factors (climatic, edaphic, and biotic factors) along an aridity gradient, and determined whether the sampling depth affected microbial C : N : P stoichiometry. From the topsoil to the subsoil, the microbial C : N, C : P, and N : P ratios varied from 6.59 to 6.83, from 60.2 to 60.5, and from 9.29 to 8.91, respectively. Only the microbial C : N ratio significantly increased with soil depth. The microbial C : N ratio significantly increased with increasing aridity in both topsoil and subsoil, while the microbial N : P ratio decreased along the aridity gradient only for the topsoil. This result implied that drought-stimulated microbes tend to be more N conservative, especially those in topsoil. Among all the factors, the soil organic carbon (SOC) content and the fungi-to-bacteria ratio exerted the largest influence on the microbial C : N, C : P, and N : P ratios at both soil depths, implying that the substrate supply and microbial structure together controlled the microbial stoichiometry. The results also revealed that the aridity index (AI) and plant aboveground biomass (AGB) exerted negative impacts on the microbial C : N ratio at both soil depths, and the effects of AI decreased in the subsoil. The results of this study suggested that the flexibility of the microbial N : P ratio should be considered when establishing the sampling depth for microbial stoichiometry study.

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Liu, Yuqing / Ma, Wenhong / Kou, Dan / et al: A comparison of patterns of microbial C : N : P stoichiometry between topsoil and subsoil along an aridity gradient. 2020. Copernicus Publications.

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