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The microbial PLFA composition as affected by pH in an arable soil

  • Johannes Rousk
  • Philip C. Brookes
  • Erland Bååth
Publishing year: 2010
Language: English
Pages: 516-520
Publication/Series: Soil Biology & Biochemistry
Volume: 42
Issue: 3
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Elsevier

Abstract english

The influence of soil pH on the phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) composition of the microbial community was investigated along the Hoosfield acid strip, Rothamsted Research, UK - a uniform pH gradient between pH 8.3 and 4.5. The influence of soil pH on the total concentration of PLFAs was not significant, while biomass estimated using substrate induced respiration decreased by about 25%. However, the PLFA composition clearly changed along the soil pH gradient. About 40% of the variation in PLFA composition along the gradient was explained by a first principal component, and the sample scores were highly correlated to pH (R-2 = 0.97). Many PLFAs responded to pH similarly in the Hoosfield arable soil compared with previous assessments in forest soils, including, e.g. monounsaturated PLFAs 16:1 omega 5, 16:1 omega 7c and 18:1 omega 7, which increased in relative concentrations with pH, and i16:0 and cy19:0, both of which decreased with pH. Some PLFAs responded differently to pH between the soil types, e.g. br18:0. We conclude that soil pH has a profound influence on the microbial PLFA composition, which must be considered in all applications of this method to detect changes in the microbial community. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


  • Biological Sciences
  • Arable soil
  • Hoosfield acid strip
  • Microbial biomass
  • pH gradient
  • PLFA
  • Microbial community composition


  • Interaction between fungi and bacteria in soil
  • Carbon drivers and microbial agents of soil respiration
  • Effect of environmental factors on fungal and bacterial growth in soil
  • Microbial carbon-use efficiency
  • Microbial Ecology
  • ISSN: 0038-0717
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E-mail: johannes [dot] rousk [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

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