The solfatara field is a unique ecosystem characterized by harsh conditions such as acidic soils. We examined the respiration rate and phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) content of solfatara soils and their responses to carbon and nitrogen addition to determine whether soil microbial respiration and biomass in a solfatara field are limited by substrate availability. Soil samples were collected from locations along a transect across a solfatara field in Oita Prefecture, Japan. The soil in the central part of the solfatara field was highly acidic (pH 2.4) and contained low amounts of carbon and nitrogen. Low basal respiration rates were detected in these soil samples. Measurements of substrate-induced respiration (SIR) and PLFA contents suggested that it was partly attributable to low microbial biomass. Addition of a carbon source (glucose) to the solfatara soil engendered a marked increase in the microbial respiration rate, whereas the nitrogen source (ammonium nitrate) application had no marked effect. Addition of both carbon and nitrogen caused a nearly eightfold increase in the microbial respiration rate and a threefold increase in the total PLFA contents. These results suggest that some acidophilic and/or acid-tolerant microorganisms exist in solfatara soil, but that their respiration and biomass are limited by low substrate availability.
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