Articles | Volume 9, issue 5
Research article
09 Oct 2018
Research article |  | 09 Oct 2018

Influence of slope aspect on the microbial properties of rhizospheric and non-rhizospheric soils on the Loess Plateau, China

Ze Min Ai, Jiao Yang Zhang, Hong Fei Liu, Sha Xue, and Guo Bin Liu

Abstract. Slope aspect is an important topographic factor in the micro-ecosystem environment, but its effect on the microbial properties of grassland rhizospheric soil (RS) and non-rhizospheric soil (NRS) remain unclear. A field experiment was conducted at the Ansai Research Station on the Loess Plateau in China to test the influence of slope aspects (south-facing, north-facing, and northwest-facing slopes, all with Artemisia sacrorum as the dominant species) on RS and NRS microbial biomass carbon (MBC) contents, phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) contents, and the rhizospheric effect (RE) of various microbial indices. Soil samples were collected from the three slope aspects, including rhizospheric and non-rhizospheric region, and analyzed to determine the various related microbial indices. The results showed that MBC content differed significantly among the slope aspects in RS but not in NRS, and the RE for MBC content in the south-facing slope was larger than that in the north-facing slope. RS total, bacterial, and Gram-positive bacterial PLFA contents in the south-facing slope were significantly lower than those in the north- and northwest-facing slopes, and RS Gram-negative bacterial (G) and actinomycete PLFA contents in the south-facing slope were significantly lower than those in the north-facing slope. In contrast, NRS total, bacterial, and G PLFA contents in the north-facing slope were significantly higher than those in the south- and northwest-facing slopes, and NRS fungal and actinomycete PLFA contents in the north- and south-facing slopes were significantly higher than those in the northwest-facing slope. RE for all PLFA contents except fungal in the northwest-facing slope were higher than those in the south-facing slope. Slope aspect significantly but differentially affected the microbial properties in RS and NRS, and the variable influence was due to an evident RE for most microbial properties.

Short summary
Slope aspect significantly but differently affected the soil microbial biomass carbon and phospholipid fatty acid contents. Soil carbon and nitrogen have the largest effect on the soil microbial properties. The rhizospheric effect caused significant difference between rhizospheric and non-rhizospheric soil microbial properties. Slope aspect affected the mechanisms driving the structure of microbial communities in a micro-ecosystem environment.