Conversion of cropland to forest increases soil CH4 oxidation and abundance of CH4 oxidizing bacteria with stand age

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We investigated CH4 oxidation in afforested soils over a 200-year chronosequence in Denmark including different tree species (Norway spruce, oak and larch) and ages. Samples of the top mineral soil (0–5 cm and 5–15 cm depth) were incubated and analyzed for the abundance of the soil methane-oxidizing bacteria (MOB) and ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) and archaea (AOA) based on quantitative PCR (qPCR) on pmoA and amoA genes. Our study showed that CH4 oxidation rates and the abundance of MOB increased simultaneously with time since afforestation, suggesting that the methanotrophic activity is reflected in the abundance of this functional group.

The development of forest soils resulted in increased soil organic carbon and reduced bulk density, and these were the two variables that most strongly related to CH4 oxidation rates in the forest soils. For the top mineral soil layer (0–5 cm) CH4 oxidation rates did not differ between even aged stands from oak and larch, and were significantly smaller under Norway spruce. Compared to the other tree species Norway spruce caused a decrease in the abundance of MOB over time that could explain the decreased oxidation rates. However, the cause for the lower abundance remains unclear. The abundance of ammonia-oxidizers along the chronosequence decreased over time, oppositely to the MOB. However, our study did not indicate a direct link between CH4 oxidation rates and ammonia-oxidizers. Here, we provide evidence for a positive impact of afforestation of former cropland on CH4 oxidation capacity in soils most likely caused by an increased population size and activity of MOB.
Original languageEnglish
JournalApplied Soil Ecology
Pages (from-to)49-58
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2014

ID: 105730921