Trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides) is widely distributed in North American forests. Increased stand productivity with resource availability has been reported, but the relationship between soil microbial community structure and stand productivity remains unclear. To examine soil microbial composition of 4 aspen stand productivity classes, we assessed soil properties, microbial biomass and respiration, and bacterial and ectomycorrhizal diversity. Most variables showed no significant differences between productivity classes. However, mean values for basal respiration (0.05 to 27.99 µg CO2-C·g-1 soil·h-1), bacterial biomass, and metabolic quotient (0.08 to 5.22 CO2-C·mg-1 Cmic·h-1) were lowest in low productivity (Class 1) sites. Bacteria to fungi ratios were significantly lower (P = 0.05) in Class 1 compared to other classes. Microbial biomass ranged from 1.39 to 8.11 mg Cmic·g-1 soil. Thirty-seven distinct aspen ectomycorrhizas (ECM) were characterized, 21 were considered rare (from ≤3 trees). ECM richness did not differ significantly between classes, although relative abundance for some types did. Canonical correspondence analysis showed productivity class explained most microbial community variation, e.g., ECM fungi (80% explained) and soil bacteria (46%). Despite some differences, we could not identify statistically significant bacterial or ECM assemblages linked to stand productivity. Results may reflect a strong association between microbial processes and the dominant host, aspen. Aspen associated with widely distributed fungi common to all classes, possibly facilitating its survival and growth, including on sites exhibiting low pH and low soil fertility.
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Vol. 20 • No. 3