Abstract The relationship between total and metabolically active soil microbial communities can provide insight into how these communities are impacted by environmental change, which may impact the flow of energy and cycling of nutrients in the future. For example, the anthropogenic release of biologically available N has dramatically increased over the last 150 years, which can alter the processes controlling C storage in terrestrial ecosystems. In a northern hardwood forest ecosystem located in Michigan, USA, nearly 20 years of experimentally increased atmospheric N deposition has reduced forest floor decay and increased soil C storage. A microbial mechanism underlies this response, as compositional changes in the soil microbial community have been concomitantly documented with these biogeochemical changes. Here, we co-extracted DNA and RNA from decaying leaf litter to determine if experimental atmospheric N deposition has lowered the diversity and altered the composition of the whole communities of bacteria and fungi (i.e., DNA-based) and well as its active members (i.e., RNA-based). In our experiment, experimental N deposition did not affect the composition, diversity, or richness of the total forest floor fungal community, but did lower the diversity (-8%), as well as altered the composition of the active fungal community. In contrast, neither the total nor active forest floor bacterial community was significantly affected by experimental N deposition. Our results suggest that future rates of atmospheric N deposition can fundamentally alter the organization of the saprotrophic soil fungal community, key mediators of C cycling in terrestrial environments.
Journal: Soil biology and biochemistry