Implications of land management on soil microbial communities and nutrient cycle dynamics in the lowland tropical forest of Northern Costa Rica

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The long-term effects of reforestation versus maintained grassland on microbial community structure and nutrient cycling provide a valuable perspective on ecosystem health and carbon sequestration potential of tropical soils in the heavily deforested Northern Zone of Costa Rica. The soil from the secondary forests in this area had greater levels of phosphate, inorganic nitrogen, organic carbon, respiratory activity, abundance and diversity of Basidomycete rDNA, abundance of fungal rDNA, and lower abundance but greater diversity of Rhizobium rDNA, and less abundance of nifH gene DNA than soils from adjacent grasslands of the same age. Critical correlations were observed between the abundance of Basidiomycete rDNA and laccase gene with the levels of phosphate, microbial biomass, organic carbon use efficiency, and percent water saturation. These data suggest a trend towards the secondary forest soils becoming more fungal-dominant, with greater microbial activity, greater nitrogen mineralization activity and more efficient use of carbon. This project provides some of the first evidence that the management strategy of regeneration of secondary forests results in more complex soil ecosystems, with greater potential for carbon sequestration than the maintained grasslands. © International Society for Tropical Ecology.

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Tropical Ecology

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