Salinity and sodicity effects on respiration and microbial biomass of soil
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An understanding of the effects of salinity and sodicity on soil carbon (C) stocks and fluxes is critical in environmental management, as the areal extents of salinity and sodicity are predicted to increase. The effects of salinity and sodicity on the soil microbial biomass (SMB) and soil respiration were assessed over 12weeks under controlled conditions by subjecting disturbed soil samples from a vegetated soil profile to leaching with one of six salt solutions; a combination of low-salinity (0.5dSm−1), mid-salinity (10dSm−1), or high-salinity (30dSm−1), with either low-sodicity (sodium adsorption ratio, SAR, 1), or high-sodicity (SAR 30) to give six treatments: control (low-salinity low-sodicity); low-salinity high-sodicity; mid-salinity low-sodicity; mid-salinity high-sodicity; high-salinity low-sodicity; and high-salinity high-sodicity. Soil respiration rate was highest (56–80mg CO2-C kg−1 soil) in the low-salinity treatments and lowest (1–5mg CO2-C kg−1 soil) in the mid-salinity treatments, while the SMB was highest in the high-salinity treatments (459–565mg kg−1 soil) and lowest in the low-salinity treatments (158–172mg kg−1 soil). This was attributed to increased substrate availability with high salt concentrations through either increased dispersion of soil aggregates or dissolution or hydrolysis of soil organic matter, which may offset some of the stresses placed on the microbial population from high salt concentrations. The apparent disparity in trends in respiration and the SMB may be due to an induced shift in the microbial population, from one dominated by more active microorganisms to one dominated by less active microorganisms.
KeywordsLeaching Saline Sodic Labile carbon Soil respiration Microbial biomass
The authors would like to acknowledge the Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Accounting and the Cooperative Research Centre for Landscape Environments and Mineral Exploration for funding, S. Chin Wong and Linda McMorrow for assistance in the laboratory, David Little for assistance in the field, Weijin Wang, Sue Welch and the two anonymous reviewers for comments on the manuscript, and Eric Dowling for access to his property.
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