Elevated nitrogen (N) deposition in humid tropical regions may exacerbate phosphorus (P) deficiency in forests on highly weathered soils. However, it is not clear how P availability affects soil microbes and soil carbon (C), or how P processes interact with N deposition in tropical forests. We examined the effects of N and P additions on soil microbes and soil C pools in a N-saturated old-growth tropical forest in southern China to test the hypotheses that (1) N and P addition will have opposing effects on soil microbial biomass and activity, (2) N and P addition will alter the composition of the microbial community, (3) the addition of N and P will have interactive effects on soil microbes and (4) addition-mediated changes in microbial communities would feed back on soil C pools. Phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) analysis was used to quantify the soil microbial community following four treatments: Control, N addition (15 g N m-2 yr-1), P addition (15 g P m-2 yr-1), and N&P addition (15 g N m-2 yr-1 plus 15 g P m-2 yr-1). These were applied from 2007 to 2011. Whereas additions of P increased soil microbial biomass, additions of N reduced soil microbial biomass. These effects, however, were transient, disappearing over longer periods. Moreover, N additions significantly increased relative abundance of fungal PLFAs and P additions significantly increased relative abundance of arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi PLFAs. Nitrogen addition had a negative effect on light fraction C, but no effect on heavy fraction C and total soil C. In contrast, P addition significantly decreased both light fraction C and total soil C. However, there were no interactions between N addition and P addition on soil microbes. Our results suggest that these nutrients are not co-limiting, and that P rather than N is limiting in this tropical forest.
Liu L, Zhang T, Gilliam FS, Gundersen P, Zhang W, et al. (2013) Interactive Effects of Nitrogen and Phosphorus on Soil Microbial Communities in a Tropical Forest. PLoS ONE 8(4): e61188. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0061188