Multivariate approach to characterizing soil microbial communities in pristine and agricultural sites in Northwest Argentina


Land use effects on microbial communities may have profound impacts on agricultural productivity and ecosystem sustainability as they are critical in soil quality and health. The main aim of this study was to characterize the microbial communities of pristine and agricultural soils in the central Yungas region in Northwest Argentina. As a first step in the development of biological indicators of soil quality in this region, a comprehensive approach involving a structural and functional evaluation of microbial communities was used to detect changes in soil as consequence of land use. The sites selected included two pristine montane forest sites (MF1 and MF2), two plots under sugarcane monoculture for 40 and 100 years (SC40 and SC100), one plot under 20 years of soybean monoculture (SB20), a recently deforested and soybean cropped site (RC), and two reference sites of native forest adjacent to the sugarcane and soybean plots (PF1 and PF2). We used three microbial community profiling methods: denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) analysis of PCR amplified 16S rRNA genes, community-level physiological profiling (CLPP) using a BD oxygen biosensor system (BDOBS-CLPP) and phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) analysis. Deforestation and agriculture caused expected increases in pH and decreases in organic carbon and microbial biomass. Additionally, shifts in the microbial community structure and physiology were detected with disturbance, including reduced diversity based on PLFA data. The higher respiratory response to several carbon substrates observed in agricultural soils suggested the presence of microbial communities with lower growth yield efficiency that could further reduce carbon storage in these soils.

Using an integrated multivariate analysis of all data measured in this study we propose a minimum data set of variables (organic carbon, pH, sucrose and valeric acid utilizations, a17:0 and a15:0 PLFA biomarkers and the value of impact on microbial diversity) to be used for future studies of soil quality in Northwest Argentina.


Soil Biogeochemistry and Microbial Ecology

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Applied Soil Ecology



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