|Title||Pathogen-Induced Tree Mortality Modifies Key Components of the C and N Cycles with No Changes on Microbial Functional Diversity|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||2021|
|Authors||Avila J.M, Gallardo A., Ibáñez B., Gomez-Aparicio L.|
An increase in tree mortality rates as a consequence of biotic disturbances has been detected worldwide. Biotic disturbances in forests might cause significant impacts at ecosystem-level, with strong effects on soil biological activity and organic matter transformation. However, very few empirical studies have explored to date the consequences of biotic disturbances for soil microbial communities and C and N cycles. Here, we assessed the effects of Quercus suber dieback, caused by the exotic root pathogen Phytophthora cinnamomi, on the soil microbial community and key components of the C and N cycle. We used a spatially explicit neighborhood approach to analyze the effects of Q. suber trees with different health status and non-declining coexistent species on soil variables. The study was replicated in the two main Q. suber forest types of the region (closed forests and open woodlands) with contrasting soil texture characteristics. Pathogen-induced tree dieback did not affect microbial functional diversity or biomass, but translated into lower soil microbial respiration. Tree mortality induced changes in several variables of the C and N cycle, but the sign and magnitude of these effects varied depending on the local characteristics of soil texture. Coexistent species differed strongly from Q. suber in their effects on the C and N cycle. Overall, our results show that tree dieback due to invasive pathogens translates into complex short- and long-term effects on different components of the C and N cycles, despite no effects on microbial functional diversity and biomass.