Periodic droughts and extreme rainfall are predicted to become more common in the future; therefore, it is important to understand how soil N transformation processes driven by soil microbes respond to rainfall events. Differences in forest type, including those in the predominant mycorrhizal type, can have varying effects on soil N transformation. Therefore, we hypothesised that the response of the N transformation processes to rainfall events would differ between forest types, even those that are adjacently located. In this study, we generated a soil moisture gradient in adjacent dryland black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia, non-ectomycorrhizal [ECM]-type) and oak (Quercus liaotungensis, ECM-type) forests and measured the abundance and community composition of fungi and prokaryotes (including ammonia-oxidisers), extractable N content, and net N transformation rates in the soil. Increasing moisture was found to increase nitrate N content in the black locust forest but not in the oak forest. In the oak forest, the abundance of ECM fungi increased with increasing moisture, subsequently enhancing ECM fungal ammonium N uptake and limiting the N availability for ammonia oxidisers, which may reduce the nitrate N production by ammonia-oxidisers. Increased nitrate N uptake by ECM fungi may also result in low soil nitrate N content. The findings of this study indicate that the responses of the nitrate N dynamics to rainfall events can differ between adjacent forests and that this difference may be attributable to the presence of ECM fungi. Therefore, considering the forest mycorrhizal type is vital for predicating the response of forest N cycling under climate change.
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