Effects of Revegetation on Soil Microbial Biomass, Enzyme Activities, and Nutrient Cycling on the Loess Plateau in China

Authors

  • Shao-Shan An,

    Corresponding author
    1. Institute of Soil and Water Conservation, CAS&MWR, Yangling, P.R. China
    • State Key Laboratory of Soil Erosion and Dryland Farming on Loess Plateau, Northwest A&F University, Yangling, P.R. China
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  • Yi Cheng,

    1. Department of Environment Science and Engineering, College of Resource and Environment Science, Northwest A&F University, Yangling, P.R. China
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  • Yi-Mei Huang,

    1. Department of Environment Science and Engineering, College of Resource and Environment Science, Northwest A&F University, Yangling, P.R. China
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  • Dong Liu

    1. Department of Environment Science and Engineering, College of Resource and Environment Science, Northwest A&F University, Yangling, P.R. China
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Address correspondence to S. S. An, email shan@ms.iswc.ac.cn

Abstract

Revegetation is a traditional practice widely used for soil and water conservation on the Loess Plateau in China. However, there has been a lack of reports on soil microbial–biochemical indices required for a comprehensive evaluation of the success of revegetation systems. In this study, we examined the effects of revegetation on major soil nutrients and microbial–biochemical properties in an artificial alfalfa grassland, an enclosed natural grassland, and an artificial shrubland (Caragana korshinskii), with an abandoned cropland as control. Results showed that at 0–5, 5–20, and 20–40 cm depths, soil organic carbon, alkaline extractable nitrogen and available potassium were higher in natural grassland and artificial shrubland compared with artificial grassland and abandoned cropland. Soil microbial biomass C (Cmic) and phosphorous (Pmic) substantially decreased with depth at all sites, and in abandoned cropland was significantly lower than those of natural grassland, artificial grassland, and artificial shrubland at the depth of 0–5 cm. Soil microbial biomass N (Nmic) was higher in artificial shrubland and abandoned cropland compared with that in natural and artificial grasslands. Both Cmic and Pmic were significantly different between the 23-year-old and the 13-year-old artificial shrublands at the 0–5 cm depth. The activities of soil invertase, urease, and alkaline phosphatase in natural grassland and artificial shrubland were higher than those in artificial grassland and abandoned cropland. This study demonstrated that the regeneration of both natural grassland and artificial shrubland effectively preserved and enhanced soil microbial biomass and major nutrient cycling, thus is an ecologically beneficial practice for recovery of degraded soils on the Loess Plateau.

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