Little information exists on the responses of soil fungal and bacterial communities in high elevation coniferous forest/open meadow ecosystems of the northwest United States of America to treatments that impact vegetation and soil conditions. An experiment was conducted in which soil cores were reciprocally transplanted between immediately adjacent forests and meadows at two high elevation (~1,600 m) sites (Carpenter and Lookout) in the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest located in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon. Half of the cores were placed in PVC pipe (closed) to prevent new root colonization, whereas the other cores were placed in mesh bags (open) to allow recolonization by fine roots. A duplicate set of open and closed soil cores was not transferred between sites and was incubated in place. After 2 year, soil cores were removed and changes in fungal and bacterial biomasses determined using light microscopy, and changes in microbial community composition determined by PLFA analysis, and by length heterogeneity PCR of the internal transcribed spacer region of fungal ribosomal DNA. At both sites soil microbial community structures had responded to treatments after 2 year of incubation. At Carpenter, both fungal and bacterial community structures of forest soil changed significantly in response to transfer from forest to meadow, with the shift in fungal community structure being accompanied by a significant decrease in the PLFA biomarker of fungal biomass,18:2x6,9. At Lookout, both fungal and bacterial community structures of forest soil changed significantly in response to open versus closed core treatments, with the shift in the fungal community being accompanied by a significant decrease in the 18:2x6,9 content of closed cores, and the shift in the bacterial community structure being accompanied by a significant increase in bacterial biomass of closed cores. At both sites, fungal community structures of meadow soils changed differently between open and closed cores in response to transfer to forest, and were accompanied by increases in the18:2x6,9 content of open cores. Although there were no significant treatment effects on the bacterial community structure of meadow soil at either site, bacterial biomass was significantly higher in closed versus open cores regardless of transfer.
Keywords: Bacterial and fungal soil community composition - Environmental and vegetation effects - Forest and meadow soils