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Elevated atmospheric CO2 alters soil microbial communities associated with trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides) roots

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Microbial Ecology





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Global atmospheric CO2 levels are expected to double within the next 50 years. To assess the effects of increased atmospheric CO2 on soil ecosystems, cloned trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides) seedlings were grown individually in 1 m3 open bottom root boxes under either elevated (720 ppm, ELEV) or ambient CO2 (360 ppm, AMB). After 5 years, soil cores (40 cm depth) were collected from the root boxes and divided into 0–20 cm and 20–40 cm fractions. ELEV treatment resulted in significant decreases in both soil nitrate and total soil nitrogen in both the 0–20 cm and 20–40 cm soil fractions, with a 47% decrease in soil nitrate and a 50% decrease in total soil nitrogen occurring in the 0–20 cm fraction. ELEV treatment did not result in a significant change in the amount of soil microbial biomass. However, analysis of indicator phospholipid fatty acids (PLFA) indicated that ELEV treatment did result in significant increases in PLFA indicators for fungi and Gram-negative bacteria in the 0–20 cm fraction. Terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) analysis was used to analyze the composition of the soil bacterial communities (using primers targeting the 16SrRNA gene) and the soil fungal communities (using primers targeting the intergenic transcribed spacer region). T-RFLP analysis revealed shifts in both bacterial and fungal community structure, as well as increases in both bacterial and fungal species richness with ELEV treatment. These results indicated that increased atmospheric CO2 had significant effects on both soil nutrient availability and the community composition of soil microbes associated with aspen roots.