Impact of Robinia pseudoacacia stand conversion on soil properties and bacterial community composition in Mount Tai, China

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Li, Kun
Han, Xu
Ni, Ruiqiang
Shi, Ge
Miguel Magaña, Sergio deMiguel Magaña, Sergio de - ORCID ID
Li, Chuanrong
Shen, Weixing
Zhang, Yikun
Zhang, Xingzhong
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cc-by (c) Li, Kun et al., 2021
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Background: Robinia pseudoacacia is a widely planted pioneer tree species in reforestations on barren mountains in northern China. Because of its nitrogen-fixing ability, it can play a positive role in soil and forest restoration. After clear-cutting of planted stands, R. pseudoacacia stands become coppice plantations. The impacts of shifting from seedling to coppice stands on soil bacterial community and soil properties have not been well described. This study aims to quantify how soil properties and bacterial community composition vary between planted seedling versus coppice stands. Methods: Nine 20 m × 20 m plots were randomly selected in seedling and coppice stands. The bulk soil and rhizosphere soil were sampled in summer 2017. Bulk soil was sampled at 10 cm from the soil surface using a soil auger. Rhizosphere soil samples were collected using a brush. The soil samples were transported to the laboratory for chemical analysis, and bacterial community composition and diversity was obtained through DNA extraction, 16S rRNA gene amplification and high-throughput sequencing. Results: The results showed that, compared to seedling plantations, soil quality decreased significantly in coppice stands, but without affecting soil exchangeable Mg2+ and K+. Total carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) were lower in the rhizosphere than in bulk soil, whereas nutrient availability showed an opposite trend. The conversion from seedling to coppice plantations was also related to significant differences in soil bacterial community structure and to the reduction of soil bacterial α-diversity. Principal component analysis (PCA) showed that bacterial community composition was similar in both bulk and rhizosphere soils in second-generation coppice plantations. Specially, the conversion from seedling to coppice stands increased the relative abundance of Proteobacteria and Rhizobium, but reduced that of Actinobacteria, which may result in a decline of soil nutrient availability. Mantel tests revealed that C, N, soil organic matter (SOM), nitrate nitrogen (NO3−-N) and available phosphorus positively correlated with bacterial community composition, while a variation partition analysis (VPA) showed that NO3−-N explained a relatively greater proportion of bacterial distribution (15.12%), compared with C and SOM. Surprisingly, N showed no relationship with bacterial community composition, which may be related to nitrogen transportation. Conclusions: The conversion from seedling to coppice stands reduced soil quality and led to spatial-temporal homogenization of the soil bacterial community structure in both the rhizosphere and bulk soils. Such imbalance in microbial structure can accelerate the decline of R. pseudoacacia. This may affect the role of R. pseudoacacia coppice stands in soil and forest restoration of barren lands in mountain areas.
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Forest Ecosystems, 2021, vol. 8, article 19, p. 1-12