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Long-term effects of organic amendments on the recovery of plant and soil microbial communities following disturbance in the Canadian boreal forest


Ecosystem recovery following disturbance requires the reestablishment of key soil biogeochemical processes. This long-term 7 year study describes effects of organic material, moisture, and vegetation on soil microbial community development in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region of Western Canada.Phospholipid fatty acid analysis was used to characterize and compare soil microbial community composition and development on reclaimed and natural forest sites. Additionally, we conducted a laboratory moisture manipulation experiment.The use of forest floor material as an organic amendment resulted in a greater percent cover of upland vegetation and placed the soil microbial community on a faster trajectory towards ecosystem recovery than did the use of a peat amendment. The soil microbial composition within the reclaimed sites exhibited a greater response to changes in moisture than did the soil microbial communities from natural sites.Our research shows that the use of native organic amendment (forest floor) on reclaimed sites, and the associated establishment of native vegetation promote the development of soil microbial communities more similar to those found on natural forest sites. Additionally, soil microbial communities from natural sites may be more resistant to changes in soil moisture than those found on reclaimed sites.