Canadian Forest Service Publications

Microbial community structure and function: the effect of silvicultural burning and topographic variability in northern Alberta. 2009. Swallow, M.; Quideau, S.A.; MacKenzie, M.D.; Kishchuk, B.E. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 41(4): 770-777.

Year: 2009

Issued by: Northern Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 29346

Language: English

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Forest floor chemistry and microbial communities can be influenced by forest land management, such as harvesting and prescribed burning. Here, we used phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) and multiple carbon-source substrate-induced respiration (MSIR) analyses to characterize microbial communities of deciduous, mixedwood and coniferous boreal forest floors with different silvicultural treatments. The sites were stem-only harvested with 10% retention, and silvicultural treatments consisting of slash being evenly distributed on the site and then burned, or not burned. The burned sites exhibited lower microbial biomass and greater NO3- concentrations than the unburned sites. However, burning appeared to have no effect on forest floor microbial community structure or function. On the other hand, during drier months (August sampling), the composition of forest floor microbial communities appeared to be strongly influenced by topographic position rather than stand related differences. Harvested sites located at higher elevations had similar microbial communities, regardless of the overstory composition, while coniferous and mixedwood sites located at lower elevations had similarly structured microbial communities that were distinct from deciduous sites. Differences in microclimatic conditions of the forest floor between higher elevation sites and lower elevations sites may select for some microbial groups over others. Indicator analysis found a strong association of a fungal PLFA biomarker (20:1?9c), with sites at higher elevation, while a biomarker for actinomycetes (10Me19:0) was strongly associated with deciduous sites at lower elevation. Structural differences in microbial communities observed between sites at higher and lower elevations appear to be linked to seasonal patterns in moisture, as previous studies in this region found no apparent effect of elevation during times of higher monthly precipitation.