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Use of soil enzyme activities to assess the recovery of soil functions in abandoned coppice forest systems

Ananbeh, Hanadi, Stojanović, Marko, Pompeiano, Antonio, Voběrková, Stanislava, Trasar-Cepeda, Carmen
The Science of the total environment 2019 v.694 pp. 133692
Quercus petraea, acid phosphatase, arylsulfatase, beta-fructofuranosidase, beta-glucosidase, biochemical pathways, charcoal, coppicing, cutting, enzyme activity, forest soils, forests, long term effects, soil enzymes, soil organic matter, stems, trees, urease, wood, Central European region
Coppicing consists of periodically cutting back tree stems to ground level to stimulate the growth of multiple stems from the stool. In Central Europe, many coppiced forests were abandoned at the beginning of the last century owing to a decline in the demand for charcoal and wood. This was assumed to enable the forests to recover and the properties to become similar to those of unmanaged forest (high forest). Most studies on abandoned coppiced forest have focused on forest recovery, while soil recovery has generally been overlooked. With the aim of filling this gap, this study investigated the effect of coppicing abandonment on soil recovery by analysing the changes in soil enzyme activities (dehydrogenase, β-glucosidase, invertase, urease, acid phosphatase and arylsulphatase). Two differently managed sessile oak (Quercus petraea) forests were selected for study: a former coppice forest, abandoned >90 years ago, and an undisturbed forest. The analytical data were compared to assess the degree of recovery of the soil in the abandoned coppice forest. The soil organic matter content was two times lower in the abandoned coppice than in the high forest, suggesting that organic matter depletion due the past coppicing is a long-term effect. All of the absolute enzyme activities were also two times lower in the abandoned coppice forest soil than in the high forest soil. However, the specific enzyme activities were similar in both types of soil. This indicates that metabolic activity is similar in both soil types, suggesting that it either recovers faster than organic matter and soil enzyme activity or that, despite the depletion in organic matter and enzyme activities, metabolic activity was sustained in coppiced forest soil. However, in the latter case this would imply that organic matter and soil enzymes were lost in exactly the same proportion, which is highly improbable.