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Amino acid fingerprint of a grassland soil reflects changes in plant species richness

Sauheitl, Leopold, Glaser, Bruno, Dippold, Michaela, Leiber, Katharina, Weigelt, Alexandra
Plant and soil 2010 v.334 no.1-2 pp. 353-363
amino acids, carbon, discriminant analysis, exudation, free amino acids, grassland soils, grasslands, microorganisms, mineralization, nitrogen, primary productivity, root exudates, species diversity
A positive plant diversity to plant aboveground productivity relation has been shown to alter carbon and nitrogen fluxes in soils. Thus, most investigations focussed on the C- and N-input via litter fall, widely neglecting the importance of root exudation. As microbes, which are known to be important drivers of matter fluxes in soil, feed on these root exudates, increased knowledge on the availability of these compounds in soil might help to understand biodiversity effects on soil. We therefore investigated the effect of plant diversity on size and composition of the free soil amino acid pool in a grassland experiment, as amino acids are an important C- as well as N-source for microbes. Despite a positive diversity effect on plant productivity, we only found an insignificant increase of the size of the free amino acid pool in soil. This was most likely caused by an increase of the microbial population and thus an increased amino acid mineralization. At the same time the composition of the amino acid pool changed significantly between plant diversity levels. This most likely reflects differences in plant input as well as differences in microbial mineralization and enabled us to separate diversity levels by means of discriminant analysis.