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Extractable nitrogen and microbial community structure respond to grassland restoration regardless of historical context and soil composition.

  • Author(s): Dickens, Sara Jo M
  • Allen, Edith B
  • Santiago, Louis S
  • Crowley, David
  • et al.

Grasslands have a long history of invasion by exotic annuals, which may alter microbial communities and nutrient cycling through changes in litter quality and biomass turnover rates. We compared plant community composition, soil chemical and microbial community composition, potential soil respiration and nitrogen (N) turnover rates between invaded and restored plots in inland and coastal grasslands. Restoration increased microbial biomass and fungal : bacterial (F : B) ratios, but sampling season had a greater influence on the F : B ratio than did restoration. Microbial community composition assessed by phospholipid fatty acid was altered by restoration, but also varied by season and by site. Total soil carbon (C) and N and potential soil respiration did not differ between treatments, but N mineralization decreased while extractable nitrate and nitrification and N immobilization rate increased in restored compared with unrestored sites. The differences in soil chemistry and microbial community composition between unrestored and restored sites indicate that these soils are responsive, and therefore not resistant to feedbacks caused by changes in vegetation type. The resilience, or recovery, of these soils is difficult to assess in the absence of uninvaded control grasslands. However, the rapid changes in microbial and N cycling characteristics following removal of invasives in both grassland sites suggest that the soils are resilient to invasion. The lack of change in total C and N pools may provide a buffer that promotes resilience of labile pools and microbial community structure.

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