Effects of Epixylic Vegetation Removal on the Dynamics of the Microbial Community Composition in Decaying Logs in an Alpine Forest

Chenhui Chang, Fuzhong Wu, Zhuang Wang, Bo Tan, Rui Cao, Wanqin Yang*, Johannes H.C. Cornelissen

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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    Epixylic vegetation may be important in dead wood decay by altering the microenvironment and, thereby, microbial communities in logs. However, the interaction between epixylic vegetation and dead wood microbial communities remains poorly known. Therefore, repeated experimental epixylic (bryophyte-dominated) vegetation removal (ERM) from logs of the fir Abies faxoniana across a wide range of decay classes (I–V) was conducted on the eastern Tibetan Plateau. The dynamics of the microbial community were separately measured in heartwood, sapwood and bark using the phospholipid fatty acid analysis (PLFA) method. Our results showed that the effects of ERM on the microbial community depended greatly on the three log components and sampling seasons but less on decay class. (1) The absence of epixylic vegetation generally enhanced the total microbial biomass and Sørensen similarity in bark, whereas it had a more complicated effect on those in heartwood and sapwood. Specifically, the response to ERM became progressively stronger from winter until the late growing season. (2) ERM increased the total percentage of Gram-negative bacteria and fungi in heartwood and upper side sapwood and decreased their percentages in bark. (3) The moisture content and pH of the logs were good predictors and likely drivers of the dynamic patterns of the microbial community composition. Our findings demonstrate strong and partly consistent interactions between epixylic vegetation and microbial communities. Further in-depth research should reveal how these interactions feed back to the decomposition process of logs and thereby to carbon and nutrient cycles in the alpine forest ecosystem.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1478–1496
    Number of pages19
    Issue number7
    Early online date5 Mar 2019
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019


    This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31570445, 31570601, 31270498). Special thanks to Ms. Mengyun Kang for her advice on drawing the figure illustrating the experimental design and sampling.

    FundersFunder number
    National Natural Science Foundation of China31270498, 31570601, 31570445


      • Abies faxoniana Rehder & E. H. Wilson
      • bacteria
      • bark
      • dead wood
      • decay class
      • epixylic vegetation removal
      • fungi
      • seasonal snow cover


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