Soil environmental factors rather than denitrification gene abundance control N2O fluxes in a wet sclerophyll forest with different burning frequency
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Production of nitrous oxide (N2O) by anaerobic denitrification is one of the most important processes in the global nitrogen (N) cycle and has attracted recent attention due to its significant impacts on climatic change. Fire is a key driver of many ecosystem processes, however, how fire drives the shift in microbial community and thus alters nutrient cycling is still unclear. In this study, a 35-year-old repeated prescribed burning trial, with three treatments (no burning, 2 yearly burning and 4 yearly burning), was used to explore how the long-term repeated prescribed burning affects N2O flux, key soil properties (inorganic N, dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and N, pH, electrical conductivity (EC), moisture), denitrification gene abundance and their interactions. Soil samples were collected in January and April 2011.Quantitative real-time PCR was employed to quantify the gene copy number of target genes, including narG, nirK, nirS and nosZ. In situ N2O fluxes ranged from 0 to 8.8 g N2O N ha-1 h-1 with an average of 1.47 g N2OeN ha!1 h!1. More frequent fire (2 yearly burning) significantly reduced soil N2O fluxes, availability of C and N substrates and moisture, but increased soil pH and EC compared with no burning and 4 yearly burning treatments. Fire treatments did not significantly affect the abundance of most denitrification genes. There were no significant differences in most parameters measured between the 4 yearly burning and no burning treatments, indicating microbial community function is not affected by less frequent (4 year interval) burning. Variation in the N2O fluxes among the treatments can largely be explained by soil substrate (NO3-, DOC and total soluble nitrogen (TSN)) availability and soil environmental factors (pH, EC, and moisture), while the abundance of most denitrification genes were not related to the N2O fluxes. It is concluded that soil environmental factors rather than denitrification gene abundance control N2O fluxes in this wet sclerophyll forest in response to long-term repeated fires.
Soil biology and biochemistry