Nitrogen additions inhibit nitrification in acidic soils in a subtropical pine plantation: effects of soil pH and compositional shifts in microbial groups

  • Liang Kou
  • Xinyu Zhang
  • Huimin Wang
  • Hao Yang
  • Wei Zhao
  • Shenggong Li
Original Paper


Plantation forests play a pivotal role in carbon sequestration in terrestrial ecosystems, but enhanced nitrogen (N) deposition in these forests may affect plantation productivity by altering soil N cycling. Hence, understanding how simulated N deposition affects the rate and direction of soil N transformation is critically important in predicting responses of plantation productivity in the context of N loading. This study reports the effects of N addition rate (0, 40, and 120 kg N ha−1 a−1) and form (NH4Cl vs. NaNO3) on net N mineralization and nitrification estimated by in situ soil core incubation and on-soil microbial biomass determined by the phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) method in a subtropical pine plantation. N additions had no influences on net N mineralization throughout the year. Net nitrification rate was significantly reduced by additions of both NH4Cl (71.5) and NaNO3 (47.1%) during the active growing season, with the stronger inhibitory effect at high N rates. Soil pH was markedly decreased by 0.16 units by NH4Cl additions. N inputs significantly decreased the ratio of fungal-to-bacterial PLFAs on average by 0.28 (49.1%) in November. Under NH4Cl additions, nitrification was positively related with fungal biomass and soil pH. Under NaNO3 additions, nitrification was positively related with all microbial groups except for bacterial biomass. We conclude that simulated N deposition inhibited net nitrification in the acidic soils of a subtropical plantation forest in China, primarily due to accelerated soil acidification and compositional shifts in microbial functional groups. These findings may facilitate a better mechanistic understanding of soil N cycling in the context of N loading.


Acidification Atmospheric nitrogen deposition Microbial functional group Nitrification Soil nitrogen transformation 



Special thanks are due to the Qianyanzhou Experimental Station of Red Soil and Hilly Land, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Jiangxi Province, China, for permission to work in their permanent slash pine plantation experiment plots. Thanks to all the staff and students of the Qianyanzhou Experimental Station for their assistance in the fieldwork. The authors acknowledge the contributions of the anonymous reviewers. This research is financially supported by the Grants from the National Key Research and Development Plan (No. 2016YFD06000202), and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 31570443, 31130009).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11676_2018_645_MOESM1_ESM.docx (160 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 160 kb)


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Copyright information

© Northeast Forestry University and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Liang Kou
    • 1
  • Xinyu Zhang
    • 1
  • Huimin Wang
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Hao Yang
    • 1
  • Wei Zhao
    • 1
  • Shenggong Li
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Ecosystem Network Observation and Modeling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources ResearchChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Jiangxi Provincial Key Laboratory of Ecosystem Processes and InformationTaiheChina

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