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Soil microbial properties and temporal stability in degraded and restored lands of Northeast Brazil

Araújo, Ademir Sérgio Ferreira, Cesarz, Simone, Leite, Luiz Fernando Carvalho, Borges, Clóvis Daniel, Tsai, Siu Mui, Eisenhauer, Nico
Soil biology & biochemistry 2013 v.66 pp. 175-181
community structure, dry season, ecosystems, enzyme activity, enzymes, high density lipoprotein, humans, land degradation, land restoration, land use change, microbial biomass, respiratory quotient, soil chemical properties, soil microorganisms, stoichiometry, vegetation, Brazil
Human activities, such as land use change, cause severe land degradation in many ecosystems around the globe with potential impacts on soil processes. Restoration practices aim at reverting such impacts and reconstituting the biotic composition and functioning of an ecosystem to its initial condition. The aim of this study was to monitor soil microbial properties in degraded lands in Northeast Brazil and to compare those with land under restoration. Soil samplings were conducted in 2009, 2010 and 2011 in two different seasons (wet and dry season) at sites differing in degradation status: native vegetation (NAT), moderately degraded land (MDL), highly degraded land (HDL), and land under restoration for four years (RES). Soil microbial properties showed pronounced fluctuations between seasons with higher levels of functioning in the wet than in the dry season. Soil microbial biomass and enzymes had significantly higher values under native vegetation than in degraded land, while restored land mostly corresponded to native vegetation. Soil microbial biomass, respiratory quotient and enzyme activities were more strongly affected by land degradation than soil chemical properties. Soil microbial properties varied more between seasons and years in highly degraded land than under native vegetation suggesting a buffering effect of the native vegetation on soil microbial processes. However, land degradation effects on soil microbial properties were significant in both seasons. Moreover, our results indicate that the land restoration practice applied here shifted soil microbial community composition as indicated by soil microbial stoichiometry. Our results indicate that land degradation strongly deteriorates soil microbial properties and their stability in time, but that land restoration practices likely are successful in promoting the recovery of some soil microbial functions, even after only four years. However, shifts in soil microbial community composition in restored lands may have significant feedback effects on element cycles.