The Effects Of Forestry Management Practices on Microbial Community Properties
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
The structure and function of microbial communities are critical to the maintenance and sustainability of terrestrial ecosystem processes. Consequently, there is substantial interest in assessing how microbial communities respond to various land management practices, and if alterations to the characteristics of microbial communities has the potential to disrupt ecosystem processes. This thesis was conducted to identify the long term effects of fertilisation and different levels of post-harvest organic matter removal on the characteristics of the FH litter and soil microbial communities in six, second rotation Pinus radiata plantation forests located around New Zealand. The six sites, established between 1986 and 1994, were sampled in 2002 and 2003. Various physical and chemical properties of the sites were measured, and litterfall production was determined. The microbial biomass in the FH litter layer and soil was determined by chloroform fumigation-extraction, and Biolog plates were used to assess the relative differences in microbial community diversity, based on patterns of substrate utilisation. Fertilisation substantially altered the physical and chemical properties of the forest floor, including FH litter moisture content, mass, carbon content, nitrogen content and carbon: nitrogen ratio and soil pH, nitrogen content and carbon: nitrogen ratio. The same range of FH litter and soil properties were also significantly changed by different levels of organic matter removal. The biomass and diversity of the FH litter and soil microbial communities were significantly altered by fertilisation and organic matter removal, and the differences in the microbial community characteristics were significantly correlated to the effects of the fertilisation and organic matter removal treatments on the physical and chemical environment in the majority of cases. The physical and chemical properties of the sites were significantly correlated to estimates of wood production, and it was also found that the characteristics of the microbial community were strongly related to productivity at several sites. The results demonstrated that fertilisation and organic matter removal regimes have had long term effects on the microbial communities at the sites. The persistence of the effects of the organic matter removal treatments were particularly noteworthy, as these treatments were applied at site establishment, and despite no subsequent reinforcement over the life of the trials, were still substantially influencing the physical, chemical and microbiological properties of the FH litter and soil up to 17 years later. The results of this thesis also emphasised the value of long-term experiments in assessing the effects of disturbance on the physical, chemical and microbiological characteristics of forest ecosystems. Further research into the specific nature of the relationship between site productivity and microbial community characteristics was suggested as an important focus for future studies.