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The abundance of nitrogen cycle genes amoA and nifH depends on land-uses and soil types in South-Eastern Australia
- Hayden, Helen L., Drake, Judy, Imhof, Mark, Oxley, Andrew P.A., Norng, Sorn, Mele, Pauline M.
- Soil biology & biochemistry 2010 v.42 no.10 pp. 1774-1783
- electrical conductivity, soil organic carbon, genes, phosphorus, land use, biogeochemical cycles, geomorphology, nitrate nitrogen, soil fertility, soil pH, geographical distribution, soil bacteria, polymerase chain reaction, soil quality, soil management, potassium, microbial activity, microbial genetics, nitrogen, soil types, vegetation, Victoria (Australia)
- Nitrogen is a critical nutrient in plant-based primary production systems, therefore measurements of N cycling by microorganisms may add value to agricultural soil monitoring programs. Bacterial-mediated nitrogen cycling was investigated in soils from two broad land-uses (managed and remnant vegetation) across different Soil Orders from three geomorphic zones in Victoria, Australia, by examining the abundance of the genes amoA and nifH using quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR). The aim of the study was to identify parameters influencing bacterial populations possessing the genes nifH and amoA, and examine their distribution at a regional scale across different management treatments. The gene amoA was most abundant in the neutral to slightly alkaline surface soils from Calcarosols in North-West Victoria. There was a highly significant (P < 0.001) interaction between land-use and geomorphic zones in terms of the abundance of amoA. Detection of the gene nifH was site specific with low copy number (less than 100 copies per nanogram of DNA) observed for some strongly acidic surface soil sites in North-East Victoria (Dermosols) and South-West Victoria (Sodosols/Chromosols), while nifH was more abundant in selected Calcarosols of North-West Victoria. The gene amoA was detected across more sites than nifH and was strongly influenced by land-use, with almost consistently greater abundance in managed compared to remnant sites, particularly for North-West and South-West Victoria. The abundance of nifH was not related to land-use, with similar copy numbers observed for both managed and remnant sites at some locations. For the gene nifH, there was no significant interaction between land-use and geomorphic zones, between managed and remnant sites or between the three geomorphic zones. Regression tree analysis revealed a number of likely soil chemical and microbial variables which may act as drivers of gene abundance of amoA and nifH. Variables identified as drivers for amoA included pH, Olsen P, microbial biomass carbon, nitrate and total nitrogen while for nifH the variables were microbial biomass carbon, electrical conductivity, microbial biomass nitrogen, total nitrogen and total potassium. Measures of N cycling genes could be used as an additional indicator of soil health to assess potential ecosystem functions. The spatial scale of the current study demonstrates that a landscape approach may assist soil health monitoring programs by evaluating N cycle gene abundance in the context of the different microbial and chemical conditions related to Soil Order and land-use management.