Microbial Ecology

, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 177–188

Relationship between soil organic carbon and microbial biomass on chronosequences of reclamation sites

  • H. Insam
  • K. H. Domsch

DOI: 10.1007/BF02011711

Cite this article as:
Insam, H. & Domsch, K.H. Microb Ecol (1988) 15: 177. doi:10.1007/BF02011711


The interrelationship between soil microorganisms and soil organic carbon was studied on an agricultural and on a forest chronosequence of open-pit mine reclamation soils. Thirty years after reclamation, soil carbon levels of 0.8% on the agricultural sites and 1.7% on the forest sites (A-horizon) were reached. Microbial biomass rose very fast to levels characteristic of undisturbed soils. Microbial carbon (Cmier) was 57 mg·100 g−1 soil after 15 years on the agricultural sites and 43 mg·100 g−1 on the forest sites. The contribution of Cmier to the total organic carbon (Corg) decreased with time, more rapidly on the forest sites than on the agricultural ones. From the Cmierr/Corg ratio it became evident that both chronosequences had not yet reached a steady state within the 50 years of reclamation. A significant decrease of the metabolic quotient qCO2 (microbial respiration per unit biomass) with time was observed on the agricultural sites but not on the forest sites. The Cmier/Corg ratio proved to be a reliable soil microbial parameter for describing changes in man-made ecosystems. For evaluating reclamation efforts, the Cmier/Corg ratio can be considered superior to its single components (Cmier or Corg) and to other parameters.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. Insam
    • 1
  • K. H. Domsch
    • 1
  1. 1.Bundesforschungsanstalt für LandwirtschaftInstitut für BodenbiologieBraunschweigFRG
  2. 2.Kananaskis Centre for Environmental ResearchThe University of CalgaryCalgaryCanada