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Soil microbial community composition and land use history in cultivated and grassland ecosystems of coastal California

Steenwerth, K.L., Jackson, L.E., Calderon, F.J., Stromberg, M.R., Scow, K.M.
Soil biology & biochemistry 2002 v.34 no.11 pp. 1599
soil microorganisms, biomass, phospholipids, fatty acids, land use, agricultural soils, grasslands, grassland soils, soil chemistry, soil physical properties, loam soils, sandy loam soils, soil pH, community ecology, California
Phospholipid ester-linked fatty acid (PLFA) profiles were used to evaluate soil microbial community composition for 9 land use types in two coastal valleys in California. These included irrigated and non-irrigated agricultural sites, non-native annual grasslands and relict, never-tilled or old field perennial grasslands. All 42 sites were on loams or sandy loams of similar soil taxa derived from granitic and alluvial material. We hypothesized that land use history and its associated management inputs and practices may produce a unique soil environment, for which microbes with specific environmental requirements may be selected and supported. We investigated the relationship between soil physical and chemical characteristics, management factors, and vegetation type with microbial community composition. Higher values of total soil C, N, and microbial biomass (total PLFA) and lower values of soil pH occurred in the grassland than cultivated soils. The correspondence analysis (CA) of the PLFA profiles and the canonical correspondence analysis (CCA) of PLFA profiles, soil characteristics, and site and management factors showed distinct groupings for land use types. A given land use type could thus be identified by soil microbial community composition as well as similar soil characteristics and management factors. Differences in soil microbial community composition were highly associated with total PLFA, a measure of soil microbial biomass, suggesting that labile soil organic matter affects microbial composition. Management inputs, such as fertilizer, herbicide, and irrigation, also were associated with the distinctive microbial community composition of the different cultivated land use types.