Effects of a simulated hurricane disturbance on forest floor microbial communities

TitleEffects of a simulated hurricane disturbance on forest floor microbial communities
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsCantrell, SA, Molina, M, D. Lodge, J, Rivera-Figueroa, FJ, Ortiz-Hernández, ML, Marchetti, AA, Cyterski, MJ, Pérez-Jiménez, JR
JournalForest Ecology and Management
Date PublishedAn intro11/15/
ISBN Number0378-1127
Accession NumberLUQ.1153
Other Numbers1153
KeywordsCanopy opening, Debris addition, Green leaves, Senesced leaves, Soil and leaf litter microbial communities, Spatiotemporal variations

Forest floor microbial communities play a critical role in the processes of decomposition and nutrient cycling. The impact of cultivation, contamination, fire, and land management on soil microbial communities have been studied but there are few studies of microbial responses to the effects of tropical storms. The Canopy Trimming Experiment was executed in the Luquillo Experimental Forest of Puerto Rico to decouple two prominent effects of a hurricane—canopy opening and debris deposition on the forest floor—on forest biota and processes. We studied the independent and interactive hurricane effects of canopy openness and debris deposition on the relative abundance and diversity of microorganisms in soil and leaf litter using ester link fatty acids methyl esters (EL-FAME) analysis, and terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (TRFLP) profile. Non-metric multi-dimensional scaling analysis of soil FAME showed soil microbial community composition was significantly different between pre- and post-hurricane periods including in the unmanipulated plots and among blocks, but there was no significant separation among treatments. This shows that there are strong spatiotemporal dynamics in the structure of soil microbial communities which masked hurricane effects (canopy opening and deposition of green debris). The degree of difference among treatments decreased with time in soil which suggests that our study may have started too late after the manipulations and therefore missed the effects of canopy opening and debris addition. This reflects the resilience of the soil microbial communities. The richness of soil bacterial TRF’s however, showed a significant positive response to added debris. Neither fungal nor bacterial NMDS clusters for leaf microbial communities showed significant grouping by treatment, time or litter cohorts. Significant differences were observed through time for fungal diversity in green leaves and for both bacterial and fungal diversity in senesced leaves. Senesced leaves microbial succession apparently stopped when both the canopy and debris were removed, and there was a suggestive trimming by time interaction which reflects the susceptibility of the leaf litter microbial community. Our findings contribute to the understanding of how microbial community structures can be affected by hurricane disturbances and forestry management practices that remove canopy and debris from the forest floor, and shows the need to analyze the microbial community immediately after the disturbance. Short-term changes in microbial communities due to forest disturbances can have significant implications for litter decomposition, soil organic matter accumulation, nutrient cycling, and food web dynamics in tropical forests. All of these factors should be taken into consideration when selecting the appropriate forest management practice.

Short TitleEffects of a simulated hurricane disturbance on forest floor microbial communities