Widdig, M; Schleuss, P-M; Weig, A; Guhr, A; Biedermann, Lori; Borer, E; Crawley, M; Kirkman, K; Seabloom, EW; Wragg, P; Spohn, M: Nitrogen and phosphorus additions alter the abundance of phosphorus-solubilizing bacteria and phosphatase activity in grassland soils, Frontiers in Soil Processes (2019)
Microorganisms mobilize phosphorus (P) in soil by solubilizing bound inorganic P from soil minerals and by mineralizing organic P via phosphatase enzymes. Nitrogen (N) inputs are predicted to increase through human activities and shift plants to be more P limited, increasing the importance of P mobilization processes for plant nutrition. We studied how the relative abundance of P-solubilizing bacteria (PSB), PSB community composition, and phosphatase activity respond to N and P addition (+N, +P, +NP) in grassland soils spanning large biogeographic gradients. The studied soils are located in South Africa, USA, and UK and part of a globally coordinated nutrient addition experiment. We show that the abundance of PSB in the topsoil was reduced by 18 % in the N and by 41 % in the NP treatment compared to the control. In contrast, phosphatase activity was significantly higher in the N treatment than in the control across all soils. Soil C:P ratio, sand content, pH, and water-extractable P together explained 71 % of the variance of the abundance of PSB across all study sites and all treatments. Further, the community of PSB in the N and NP addition treatment differed significantly from the control. Taken together, this study shows that N addition reduced the relative abundance of PSB, altered the PSB community, and increased phosphatase activity, whereas P addition had no impact. Increasing atmospheric N deposition may therefore increase mineralization of organic P and decrease solubilization of bound inorganic P, possibly changing P mobilization processes in grassland soils. Consequently, in ecosystems in which plant P nutrition depends on bound inorganic P, increased N inputs might diminish P supply and thus aggravate P limitation and constrain plant productivity.
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