Coarse woody debris increases microbial community functional diversity but not enzyme activities in reclaimed oil sands soils

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Abstract

Forest floor mineral soil mix (FMM) and peat mineral soil mix (PMM) are cover soils commonly used for upland reclamation post open-pit oil sands mining in northern Alberta, Canada. Coarse woody debris (CWD) can be used to regulate soil temperature and water content, to increase organic matter content, and to create microsites for the establishment of microorganisms and vegetation in upland reclamation. We studied the effects of CWD on soil microbial community level physiological profile (CLPP) and soil enzyme activities in FMM and PMM in a reclaimed landscape in the oil sands. This experiment was conducted with a 2 (FMM vs PMM) ? 2 (near CWD vs away from CWD) factorial design with 6 replications. The study plots were established with Populus tremuloides (trembling aspen) CWD placed on each plot between November 2007 and February 2008. Soil samples were collected within 5 cm from CWD and more than 100 cm away from CWD in July, August and September 2013 and 2014. Microbial biomass was greater (p<0.05) in FMM than in PMM, in July, and August 2013 and July 2014, and greater (p<0.05) near CWD than away from CWD in FMM in July and August samplings. Soil microbial CLPP differed between FMM and PMM (p<0.01) according to a principal component analysis and CWD changed microbial CLPP in FMM (p<0.05) but not in PMM. Coarse woody debris increased microbial community functional diversity (average well color development in Biolog Ecoplates) in both cover soils (p<0.05) in August and September 2014. Carbon degrading soil enzyme activities were greater in FMM than in PMM (p<0.05) regardless of distance from CWD but were not affected by CWD. Greater microbial biomass and enzyme activities in FMM than in PMM will increase organic matter decomposition and nutrient cycling, improving plant growth. Enhanced microbial community functional diversity by CWD application in upland reclamation has implications for accelerating upland reclamation after oil sands mining.

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Kwak, J. H., Chang, S. X., Naeth, M. A., & Schaaf, W. (2015). Coarse woody debris increases microbial community functional diversity but not enzyme activities in reclaimed oil sands soils. PLoS ONE, 10(11). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0143857

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