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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Soil microbial community, dissolved organic matter and nutrient cycling interactions change along an elevation gradient in subtropical China

Wang, Shuzhen; Heal, Kate, V; Zhang, Qin; Yu, Yuanchun; Tigabu, Mulualem; Huang, Shide; Zhou, Chuifan


To identify possible dominating processes involved in soil microbial community assembly, dissolved organic matter (DOM) and multi-nutrient cycling (MNC) interactions and contribute to understanding of climate change effects on these important cycles, we investigated the interaction of soil chemistry, DOM components and microbial communities in five vegetation zones ranging from evergreen broad-leaved forest to alpine meadow along an elevation gradient of 290-1960 m in the Wuyi Mountains, Fujian Province, China. Soil DOM composition and microbial community assembly were characterized using Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (FT-ICR MS) and Illumina MiSeq high-throughput sequencing, respectively. Sloan's neutral model and the modified stochasticity ratio were used to infer community assembly processes. Key microbial drivers of the soil MNC index were identified from partial least squares path models. Our results showed that soil DOM composition is closely related to the vegetation types along an elevation gradient, the structure and composition of the microbial community, and soil nutrient status. Overall, values of the double bond equivalent (DBE), modified aromaticity index (AI(mod)) increased, and H/C ratio and molecular lability boundary (MLBL) percentage decreased with elevation. Lignins/CRAM-like structures compounds dominated soil DOM in each vegetation type and its relative abundance decreased with elevation. Aliphatic/protein and lipids components also decreased, but the relative abundance of aromatic structures and tannin increased with elevation. The alpha diversity index of soil bacteria gradually decreased with elevation, with deterministic processes dominating the microbial community assembly in the highest elevation zone. Bacterial communities were conducive to the decomposition of labile degradable DOM compounds (H/C = 1.5) at low elevation. In the cooler and wetter conditions at higher-elevation sites the relative abundance of potentially resistant soil DOM components (H/C < 1.5) gradually increased. Microbial community diversity and composition were important predictors of potential soil nutrient cycling. Although higher elevation sites have higher nutrient cycling potential, soil DOM was assessed to be a more stable carbon store, with apparent lower lability and bioavailability than at lower elevation sites. Overall, this study increases understanding of the potential linkage between soil microbial community, multiple nutrient cycling and DOM fate in subtropical mountain ecosystems that can help predict the effect of climate change on soil carbon sequestration and thus inform ecosystem management.


Dissolved organic matter (DOM); FT-ICR MS; Labile components; Microbial community assembly; Refractory components; Soil multi-nutrient cycling

Published in

Journal of Environmental Management
2023, Volume: 345, article number: 118793

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Environmental Sciences
    Soil Science

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