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Department of Biology


Carbonatites are unusual alkaline rocks with diverse compositions. Although previous work has characterized the effects these rocks have on soils and plants, little is known about their impacts on local ecosystems. Using a deposit within the Great Lakes–St. Lawrence forest in northern Ontario, Canada, we investigated the effect of a carbonatite on soil chemistry and on the structure of plant and soil microbial communities. This was done using a vegetation survey conducted above and around the deposit, with corresponding soil samples collected for determining soil nutrient composition and for assessing microbial community structure using 16S/ITS Illumina Mi-Seq sequencing. In some soils above the deposit a soil chemical signature of the carbonatite was found, with the most important effect being an increase in soil pH compared with the non-deposit soils. Both plants and microorganisms responded to the altered soil chemistry: the plant communities present in carbonatite-impacted soils were dominated by ruderal species, and although differences in microbial communities across the surveyed areas were not obvious, the abundances of specific bacteria and fungi were reduced in response to the carbonatite. Overall, the deposit seems to have created microenvironments of relatively basic soil in an otherwise acidic forest soil. This study demonstrates for the first time how carbonatites can alter ecosystems in situ.


Copyright: © 2019 Jones et al. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.