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Changes in soil microbial community structure following the abandonment of agricultural terraces in mountainous areas of Eastern Spain

Zornoza, R., Guerrero, C., Mataix-Solera, J., Scow, K.M., Arcenegui, V., Mataix-Beneyto, J.
Applied soil ecology 2009 v.42 no.3 pp. 315-323
abandoned land, terrace soils, forest soils, terraces, soil microorganisms, soil ecology, species diversity, community structure, agricultural land, agricultural soils, mountains, orchards, land use change, land use, temperate forests, phospholipids, fatty acids, soil organic matter, soil chemical properties, soil physical properties, anthropogenic activities, vegetation, soil fungi, soil bacteria, mycorrhizal fungi, vesicular arbuscular mycorrhizae, Spain
In Eastern Spain, almond trees have been cultivated in terraced orchards for centuries, forming an integral part of the Mediterranean forest scene. In the last decades, orchards have been abandoned due to changes in society. This study investigates effects of changes in land use from forest to agricultural land and the posterior land abandonment on soil microbial community, and the influence of soil physico-chemical properties on the microbial community composition (assessed as abundances of phospholipids fatty acids, PLFA). For this purpose, three land uses (forest, agricultural and abandoned agricultural) at four locations in SE Spain were selected. Multivariate analysis showed a substantial level of differentiation in microbial community structure according to land use. The microbial communities of forest soils were highly associated with soil organic matter content. However, we have not found any physical or chemical soil property capable of explaining the differences between agricultural and abandoned agricultural soils. Thus, it was suggested that the cessation of the perturbation caused by agriculture and shifts in vegetation may have led to changes in the microbial community structure. PLFAs indicative of fungi and ratio of fungal to bacterial PLFAs were higher in abandoned agricultural soils, whereas the relative abundance of bacteria was higher in agricultural soils. Actinomycetes were generally lower in abandoned agricultural soils, while the proportions of vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhyzal fungi were, as a general trend, higher in agricultural and abandoned agricultural soils than in forests. Total microbial biomass and richness increased as agricultural<abandoned agricultural<forest soils.