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CATENA
Volume 211, 2022, 106029

Enhanced soil quality after forest conversion to vegetable cropland and tea plantations has contrasting effects on soil microbial structure and functions

Lichao Fana,b, Guodong Shaoc, Yinghua Pangd, Hongcui Daie

Tea Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Hangzhou 310008, China.

Abstract

Land-use changes could potentially exert a strong influence on soil quality and soil microbial communities. Moreover, microbial taxa are also important drivers of soil ecological functions. However, the linkage between soil quality and soil microbial communities is in need of deeper understanding. Here, we examined the effects of soil fertility quality on microbial community structure that identified by pyrosequencing and functions that predicted by the FAPROTAX functional annotations dataset after forest conversion to vegetable cropland and tea plantations. Soil quality index was significantly increased after natural forest (0.2) conversion to vegetable cropland (0.7) and tea plantations (0.3–0.6). Soil bacterial beta diversity significantly correlated to soil quality index, but the sensitivity of individual microbial groups varied in response to changes in soil quality. Higher soil quality promoted bacterial diversity in vegetable cropland but decreased it in tea plantations, which implied soil quality was a structural factor in bacterial community composition but had contrasting effects for croplands versus plantations. Agricultural management played a negative role in maintaining microbial interactions, as identified by the network analysis, and furthermore the analysis revealed key functions of the microbial communities. After land-use change, the abundance (e.g., level, intensity) of microbial groups involved in N-cycling increased in tea plantations but decreased in vegetable cropland. The abundance of microbes involved in C-cycling featured an opposite trend. Higher level of N-fixation in tea plantations but the higher abundance of N-oxidation in vegetable cropland was demonstrated. Higher abundance of ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (8.5 × 104 vs. 0.9–2.4 × 104 copies) and ammonia-oxidizing archaea (3.0 × 105 vs. 0.5–1.0 × 105 copies) as identified by qPCR in cropland than that in plantations corroborated the FAPROTAX prediction. Therefore, the key taxa of soil microbial communities and microbial functions were largely dependent on changes in soil quality and determined responses to specific agricultural management.

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