Methods of microbial community profiling and their application to forest soils
Advances in molecular, biochemical, and physiological techniques for studying forest soil microbial communities are making it possible to assess the diversity, composition, and functioning of these complex communities. These new approaches avoid the limitations associated with isolating bacteria and fungi in the lab and are based on DNA, membrane phospholipid fatty acids (PLFA), and carbon source utilization. There are, however, limitations associated with these newer methods that need to be appreciated when applying them and interpreting results. Applications of community profiling approaches have advanced our understanding of the functional role of microbial diversity in forest soils, controls on microbial community composition, variability of communities among and within forest ecosystems, and responses to disturbance and forest management activities. Finally, several research directions are identified with potential for greater insight into the link between the microbial community and processes in forest soils.