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Research > Forest soil microbial ecology

Soil microbial communities play fundamental roles in key forest processes including decomposition of organic matter, nutrient cycling, formation of soil structures, suppression of pathogenesis and detoxication of harmful compounds. Human and natural disturbances can induce changes in these communities and affect productivity and sustainability of forest ecosystems. We have recently launched a project to investigate the influence of different forest management procedures on composition, activity and function of soil microbial communities in collaboration with the Long-Term Soil Productivity (LTSP) Sites of British Columbia. This project is supported by grants from the Tula Foundation to the Centre for Microbial Diversity and Evolution (CMDE) and from Genome British Columbia. We are using cutting-edge molecular genetic approaches to characterize the impact of logging practices on the soil microbial communities in the different LTSP sites of BC. A whole-community profiling approach, ribosomal intergenic spacer analysis (RISA), was used for a high-throughput analysis of bacterial, archaeal and eukaryal community structures in these soils. We are currently developing a habitat-specific microarray phylochip to permit a more efficient and comprehensive analysis of communities in treatments and sites undergoing varying levels of disturbance. These analyses will allow us to better understand the impact of forest management on the soil microbial communities and to use communities as an indicator of forest status.

Above: The Long-Term Soil Productivity (LTSP) site termed Log Lake located near Prince George BC, Canada.

Left: Ribosomal intergenic spacer profiles of four forest soil communities.

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