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Responses of Soil Fungi to Logging and Oil Palm Agriculture in Southeast Asian Tropical Forests

McGuire, KL and D Angelo, H and Brearley, FQ and Gedallovich, SM and Babar, N and Yang, N and Gillikin, CM and Gradoville, R and Bateman, C and Turner, BL and Mansor, P and Leff, JW and Fierer, N (2015) Responses of Soil Fungi to Logging and Oil Palm Agriculture in Southeast Asian Tropical Forests. Microbial Ecology, 69. ISSN 0095-3628

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Abstract

© 2014, Springer Science+Business Media New York. Human land use alters soil microbial composition and function in a variety of systems, although few comparable studies have been done in tropical forests and tropical agricultural production areas. Logging and the expansion of oil palm agriculture are two of the most significant drivers of tropical deforestation, and the latter is most prevalent in Southeast Asia. The aim of this study was to compare soil fungal communities from three sites in Malaysia that represent three of the most dominant land-use types in the Southeast Asia tropics: a primary forest, a regenerating forest that had been selectively logged 50 years previously, and a 25-year-old oil palm plantation. Soil cores were collected from three replicate plots at each site, and fungal communities were sequenced using the Illumina platform. Extracellular enzyme assays were assessed as a proxy for soil microbial function. We found that fungal communities were distinct across all sites, although fungal composition in the regenerating forest was more similar to the primary forest than either forest community was to the oil palm site. Ectomycorrhizal fungi, which are important associates of the dominant Dipterocarpaceae tree family in this region, were compositionally distinct across forests, but were nearly absent from oil palm soils. Extracellular enzyme assays indicated that the soil ecosystem in oil palm plantations experienced altered nutrient cycling dynamics, but there were few differences between regenerating and primary forest soils. Together, these results show that logging and the replacement of primary forest with oil palm plantations alter fungal community and function, although forests regenerating from logging had more similarities with primary forests in terms of fungal composition and nutrient cycling potential. Since oil palm agriculture is currently the mostly rapidly expanding equatorial crop and logging is pervasive across tropical ecosystems, these findings may have broad applicability.

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