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Forskningsartikel2020Vetenskapligt granskadÖppen tillgång

Does ectomycorrhiza have a universal key role in the formation of soil organic matter in boreal forests?

Hogberg, Mona N.; Skyllberg, Ulf; Hogberg, Peter; Knicker, Heike


Forest soil organic matter (SOM) is an important dynamic store of C and N, which releases plant available N and the greenhouse gases CO2 and N2O. Early stages of decomposition of recent plant litters are better known than the formation of older and more stable soil pools of N and C, in which case classic theory stated that selective preservation of more resistant plant compounds was important. Recent insights heighten that all plant matter becomes degraded and that older SOM consists of compounds proximally of microbial origin. It has been proposed that in boreal forests, ectomycorrhizal fungi (ECMF), symbionts of trees, are actively involved in the formation of slowly-degrading SOM.We characterized SOM in the mor-layer along a local soil N supply gradient in a boreal forest, a gradient with large variations in chemical and biological characteristics, notably a decline in the biomass of ECMF in response to increasing soil N supply.We found contrasting and regular patterns in carbohydrates, lignin, aromatic carbon, and in N-containing compounds estimated by solid-state C-13 and N-15 nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. These occurred along with parallel changes in the natural abundances of the stable isotopes C-13 and N-15 in both bulk SOM and extracted fractions of the SOM. The modelled "bomb-C-14" age of the lower layers studied ranged between 15 years at the N-poor end, to 70 years at the N-rich end of the gradient. On average half the increase in delta C-13 with soil depth (and hence age) of the mor-layer can be attributed to soil processes and the other half to changes in the isotopic composition of the plant C inputs. There was a decrease in carbohydrates (O-alkyl C) with increasing depth. This supports the classical hypothesis of declining availability of easily decomposable substrates to microorganisms with increasing soil depth and age. The observed increase in delta C-13 with depth, however, speaks against the idea of selective preservation of more resistant plant compounds like lignin. Furthermore, from the N-poor to the N-rich end the difference between N-15 in plant litter N and N in the deeper part of the mor-layer, the H-layer, decreased in parallel with a decline in ECMF.The latter provides evidence that the role of ECMF as major sink for N diminishes, and hence their potential role in SOM stabilization, when the soil N supply increases. At the N-rich end, where bacteria dominate over fungi, other agents than ECMF must be involved in the large build-up of the H-layer with the slowest turnover rate found along the gradient.


Boreal forest; Ectomycorrhizal fungi; N-15; C-13 NMR; N-15 NMR; SOM formation; C-13

Publicerad i

Soil Biology and Biochemistry
2020, Volym: 140, artikelnummer: 107635