Research Output
The abundance of nitrogen cycle genes and potential greenhouse gas fluxes depends on land use type and little on soil aggregate size
  Soil structure is known to influence microbial communities in soil and soil aggregates are the fundamental ecological unit of organisation that support soil functions. However, still little is known about the distribution of microbial communities and functions between soil aggregate size fractions in relation to land use. Thus, the objective of this study was to determine the gene abundance of microbial communities related to the nitrogen cycle and potential greenhouse gas (GHG) fluxes in six soil aggregate sizes (0–0.25, 0.25–0.5, 0.5–1.0, 1–2, 2–5, 5–10 mm) in four land uses (i.e. grassland, cropland, forest, young forest). Quantitative-PCR (Q-PCR) was used to investigate the abundance of bacteria, archaea and fungi, and functional guilds involved in N-fixation (nifH gene), nitrification (bacterial and archaeal amoA genes) and denitrification (narG, nirS, and nosZ genes). Land use leads to significantly different abundances for all genes analysed, with the cropland site showing the lowest abundance for all genes except amoA bacteria and archaea. In contrast, not a single land use consistently showed the highest gene abundance for all the genes investigated. Variation in gene abundance between aggregate size classes was also found, but the patterns were gene specific and without common trends across land uses. However, aggregates within the size class of 0.5–1.0 mm showed high bacterial 16S, nifH, amoA bacteria, narG, nirS and nosZ gene abundance for the two forest sites but not for fungal ITS and archaeal 16S. The potential GHG fluxes were affected by land use but the effects were far less pronounced than for microbial gene abundance, inconsistent across land use and soil aggregates. However, few differences in GHG fluxes were found between soil aggregate sizes. From this study, land use emerges as the dominant factor that explains the distribution of N functional communities and potential GHG fluxes in soils, with less pronounced and less generalized effects of aggregate size.

  • Type:


  • Date:

    16 December 2017

  • Publication Status:


  • Publisher

    Elsevier BV

  • DOI:


  • Cross Ref:


  • ISSN:


  • Library of Congress:

    QR Microbiology

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    577 Ecology

  • Funders:

    European Commission 7th Framework Program


Blaud, A., van der Zaan, B., Menon, M., Lair, G. J., Zhang, D., Huber, P., …Banwart, S. (2018). The abundance of nitrogen cycle genes and potential greenhouse gas fluxes depends on land use type and little on soil aggregate size. Applied Soil Ecology, 125, 1-11.



Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous); Ecology; Soil Science

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