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Contrasting effects of wood ash application on microbial community structure, biomass and processes in drained forested peatlands

Journal article
Authors Robert G. Björk
Maria Ernfors
Ulf Sikström
Mats B. Nilsson
Mats X. Andersson
Tobias Rütting
Leif Klemedtsson
Published in FEMS Microbiology Ecology
Volume 73
Issue 3
Pages 550-562
ISSN 1574-6941
Publication year 2010
Published at Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences
Pages 550-562
Language en
Keywords Methane; Microbial response; Nitrogen turnover; Peat; PLFA; Substrate induced respiration (SIR)
Subject categories Terrestrial ecology


The effects of wood ash application on soil microbial processes were investigated in three drained forested peatlands, which differed in nutrient status and time since application. Measured variables included concentrations of soil elements and phospholipid fatty acids (PLFAs), net nitrogen mineralisation, nitrification and denitrification enzyme activity, potential methane oxidation, methane production and microbial respiration kinetics. Wood ash application had a considerable influence on soil element concentrations. This mirrored a decrease in the majority of the microbial biomarkers by more than one-third in the two oligotrophic peatlands, although microbial community composition was not altered. The decreases in PLFAs coincided with reduced net ammonification and net nitrogen mineralisation. Other measured variables did not change systematically as a result of wood ash application. No significant changes in microbial biomass or processes were found in the mesotrophic peatland, possibly because too little time (1 year) had elapsed since the wood ash application. This study suggests that oligotrophic peatlands can be substantially affected by wood ash for a period of at least four years after application. However, within 25 years of the wood ash application, the microbial biomass seemed to have recovered or adapted to enhanced element concentrations in the soil.

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