Relationships between soil microorganisms, plant communities, and soil characteristics in Chinese subtropical forests

Yu Ting Wu, Jessica Gutknecht, Karin Nadrowski, Christian Geissler, Peter Kuehn, Thomas Scholten, Sabine Both, Alexandra Erfmeier, Martin Boehnke, Helge Bruelheide, Tesfaye Wubet, Francois Buscot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


We analyzed the influence of above- and belowground factors on the soil microbial community in a Chinese subtropical forest, one of the most diverse biomes in the northern hemisphere. Soil samples were taken at different depths from four replicate comparative study plots in each of three forest age classes (young 10–40 years, medium 40–80 years, old ≥80 years). Microbial biomass and community structure were then determined using phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) analysis, and basal respiration and microbial biomass carbon (Cmic) were determined by substrate-induced respiration. These data were then related to plant community and soil variables using non-metric multidimensional scaling analysis and post-hoc permutational correlations. We found that microbial lipid composition and abundance were not related to forest age class. Instead, microbial lipid composition and abundance were related to factors reflecting primary production, i.e., percent litter cover, percent dead wood cover, and percent tree layer cover. Specifically, the relative abundance (mol fraction) of indicators for arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria were positively significantly correlated with percent litter cover. We also found that the biomass of all microbial groups and total PLFA were negatively significantly related to percent deadwood cover. In addition, pHH2O was the only soil parameter that was correlated significantly to microbial biomass. Our results indicate that overarching ecological factors such as plant productivity and soil pH are important factors influencing the soil microbial community, both in terms of biomass and of community composition in this subtropical ecosystem.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)624-636
Number of pages13
Issue number4
Early online date5 Apr 2012
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012


  • BEF-China
  • microbial biomass
  • NMDS analysis
  • PLFA
  • SIR
  • subtropical forests
  • BEF China
  • S28


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