The impact of four coniferous tree species and their corresponding soil factors on N transformation rates and presence of ammonia-oxidising bacteria (AOB) was studied in an acid pine forest soil (Appelscha, The Netherlands). Pine soil had a relatively low net nitrification rate, while spruce, fir and larch soils showed high net nitrification rates. 16S rRNA and amoA sequences were only found in soils with high nitrification rates and belonged solely to Nitrosospira cluster 2. We conclude that tree species, possibly through their effects on soil C/N ratios, determines the presence of Nitrosospira cluster 2. Whenever AOB are present, however, the AOB community composition appears to be similar. © 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.