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Litter and root traits control soil microbial composition and enzyme activities in 28 common subtropical tree species

Citation

Wan, Xiaohua et al. (2022), Litter and root traits control soil microbial composition and enzyme activities in 28 common subtropical tree species, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.1zcrjdfvx

Abstract

1. Plant trait-based approaches are frequently used to explore the linkages between aboveground plant communities and belowground ecosystem functions. However, the role of plant leaf litter and living root traits in driving soil microbial biomass, community composition, and enzyme activities has rarely been explored.

2. Here, we measured the soil microbial biomass, community composition and enzyme activities related to carbon (C), nitrogen (N), and phosphorus (P) acquisition under three-year-old monocultures of 28 common subtropical tree species in China.

3. We found that plant leaf litter and absorptive root traits, including leaf litter C content, litter water holding capacity, and root N content, were the three best predictors for soil microbial biomass and enzyme activities. In particular, resource-exploitative tree species with higher root N contents were associated with microbial communities with lower fungi to bacteria ratios and lower C- and P-acquisition enzyme activities. Tree species with higher leaf litter water holding capacity were associated with microbial resource acquisition strategies for C and P acquisition.

4. Synthesis: Our findings highlighted that plant leaf litter and root traits are important for mechanistically understanding the ecological linkage between the plant community and ecosystem functions.

Funding

National Natural Science Foundation of China, Award: 31930077

National Natural Science Foundation of China, Award: 31600495