Most studies on the interactions between aboveground vegetation and belowground soil diversity have been carried out in microcosms or manipulated field plots. In the current study, we investigated the relationship between forest vegetation diversity and soil functional diversity (calculated from the activity of soil enzymes) in naturally developed plant communities of native mixed-oak forests without imposing any disturbances to already existing plant-soil relationships. In order to do so, five different vegetation types, i.e., herbaceous plants, climbing plants, trees, shrubs, and ferns, were considered. Correlations between plant diversity, soil physicochemical properties, and soil enzyme activities were determined. Soil physicochemical parameters appeared strongly correlated with both enzyme activities (e.g., pH was positively correlated with amidase and arylsulphatase, and negatively with acid phosphatase; OM content was positively correlated with β-glucosidase, acid and alkaline phosphatase and urease, and negatively with amidase; total N was positively correlated with β-glucosidase, and acid and alkaline phosphatase, and negatively with amidase) and soil functional diversity. For ferns, strong correlations between enzyme activities and plant diversity indexes were found (i.e., dehydrogenase was positively correlated with species richness and Shannon's diversity; acid and alkaline phosphatase were negatively correlated with Shannon's diversity; acid phosphatase was also negatively correlated with species richness). Most interestingly, herbaceous plants and ferns showed a strong positive correlation between Shannon's plant diversity and soil functional diversity. Furthermore, herbaceous plants showed a strong positive correlation between species richness and soil functional diversity. Although these correlations between plant diversity and soil functional diversity might possibly be due to the fact that higher values of plant richness and diversity result in a greater habitat heterogeneity in the soil, current knowledge on the topic is mixed and very incomplete and, then, one must be extremely cautious when interpreting such correlations. © 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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