Fungal-to-bacterial ratios in soils investigated for enhanced C sequestration

  • Bailey V
  • Smith J
  • Bolton H
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Fungi and bacteria govern most of the transformations and ensuing long-term storage of organic C in soils. We assessed the relative contributions of these two groups of organisms to the microbial biomass and activity of soils from five different ecosystems with treatments hypothesized to enhance soil C sequestration: (1) desert (an elevation gradient allowed comparison of soil developed in a cooler, moister climate with soil developed in a warmer, drier climate), (2) restored tallgrass prairie (land reverted to native prairie in 1979 and neighboring land farmed to row crops for ∼ 100 year), (3,4) two forest types (Douglas fir and loblolly pine, unfertilized control and N-fertilized plots), and (5) agricultural land (conventional- and no-till management systems). The selective inhibition technique, using captan (fungicide) and oxytetracycline hydrochloride (bactericide), was used to determine the activities (respiration) of fungi and bacteria in each of these soils and substrate-induced respiration was used to measure total active soil microbial biomass C. Phospholipid fatty acid analysis was used to determine the composition of the soil microbial biomass and determine if the activities and structure of the microbial communities were related. Differences in fungal-to-bacterial (F:B) activities between treatments at a site were greatest at the prairie sites. The restored prairie had the highest F:B (13.5) and high total C (49.9 g C kg-1soil); neighboring soil farmed to corn had an F:B of 0.85 and total C of 36.0 g C kg-1soil. Within the pairs of study soils, those that were tilled had lower fungal activities and stored C than those that were managed to native or no-till systems. In all pairs of soils, soils that had higher absolute fungal activities also had more total soil C and when two extreme cases were removed fungal activity was correlated with total soil C (R2= 0.85). Thus, in this small set of diverse soils, increased fungal activities, more than F:B ratios, were associated with increased soil C. Practices that involved invasive land management decreased fungal activity and stored soil C compared to similar soils that were less intrusively managed. © 2002 Baltelle. Published by Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Bacteria
  • Carbon storage
  • Fungi
  • Phospholipid fatty acids
  • Selective inhibition

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  • V. L. Bailey

  • J. L. Smith

  • H. Bolton

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