Effects of different forms of nitrogen addition on microbial extracellular enzyme activity in temperate grassland soil
Background Nitrogen (N) deposition alters litter decomposition and soil carbon (C) sequestration by influencing the microbial community and its enzyme activity. Natural atmospheric N deposition comprises of inorganic N (IN) and organic N (ON) compounds. However, most studies have focused on IN and its effect on soil C cycling, whereas the effect of ON on microbial enzyme activity is poorly understood. Here we studied the effects of different forms of externally supplied N on soil enzyme
... es related to decomposition in a temperate steppe. Ammonium nitrate was chosen as IN source, whereas urea and glycine were chosen as ON sources. Different ratios of IN to ON (Control, 10:0, 7:3, 5:5, 3:7, and 0:10) were mixed with equal total amounts of N and then used to fertilize the grassland soils for 6 years. Results Our results show that IN deposition inhibited lignin-degrading enzyme activity, such as phenol oxidase (POX) and peroxidase (PER), which may restrain decomposition and thus induce accumulation of recalcitrant organic C in grassland soils. By contrast, deposition of ON and mixed ON and IN enhanced most of the C-degrading enzyme activities, which may promote the organic matter decomposition in grassland soils. In addition, the β-N-acetyl-glucosaminidase (NAG) activity was remarkably stimulated by fertilization with both IN and ON, maybe because of the elevated N availability and the lack of N limitation after long-term N fertilization at the grassland site. Meanwhile, differences in soil pH, soil dissolved organic carbon (DOC), and microbial biomass partially explained the differential effects on soil enzyme activity under different forms of N treatments. Conclusions Our results emphasize the importance of organic N deposition in controlling soil processes, which are regulated by microbial enzyme activities, and may consequently change the ecological effect of N deposition. Thus, more ON deposition may promote the decomposition of soil organic matter thus converting C sequestration in grassland soils into a C source.