Sheep-urine-induced changes in soil microbial community structure

N. Nunan, B. Singh, E. Reid, B. Ord, Artemis Loukia Papert, J. Squires, James Ivor Prosser, R. Wheatley, J. W. McNicol, P. Millard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Citations (Scopus)


Soil microbial communities play an important role in nutrient cycling and nutrient availability, especially in unimproved soils. In grazed pastures, sheep urine causes local changes in nutrient concentration which may be a source of heterogeneity in microbial community structure. In the present study, we investigated the effects of synthetic urine on soil microbial community structure, using physiological (community level physiological profiling, CLPP), biochemical (phospholipid fatty acid analysis, PLFA) and molecular (denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis, DGGE) fingerprinting methods. PLFA data suggested that synthetic urine treatment had no significant effect on total microbial (total PLFA), total bacterial or fungal biomass; however, significant changes in microbial community structure were observed with both PLFA and DGGE data. PLFA data suggested that synthetic urine induced a shift towards communities with higher concentrations of branched fatty acids. DGGE banding patterns derived from control and treated soils differed, due to a higher proportion of DNA sequences migrating only to the upper regions of the gel in synthetic urine-treated samples. The shifts in community structure measured by PLFA and DGGE were significantly correlated with one another, suggesting that both datasets reflected the same changes in microbial communities. Synthetic urine treatment preferentially stimulated the use of rhizosphere-C in sole-carbon-source utilisation profiles. The changes caused by synthetic urine addition accounted for only 10-15% of the total variability in community structure, suggesting that overall microbial community structure was reasonably stable and that changes were confined to a small proportion of the communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)310-320
Number of pages10
JournalFEMS Microbiology Ecology
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • microbial community structure
  • phospholipid fatty acid analysis
  • denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis
  • Biolog
  • soil solution chemistry
  • DNA

Cite this

Nunan, N., Singh, B., Reid, E., Ord, B., Papert, A. L., Squires, J., Prosser, J. I., Wheatley, R., McNicol, J. W., & Millard, P. (2006). Sheep-urine-induced changes in soil microbial community structure. FEMS Microbiology Ecology, 56, 310-320.