Plant and Soil

, Volume 437, Issue 1–2, pp 215–239 | Cite as

Land-use intensity shapes kinetics of extracellular enzymes in rhizosphere soil of agricultural grassland plant species

  • Alexander Tischer
  • Livia Sehl
  • Ulf-Niklas Meyer
  • Till Kleinebecker
  • Valentin Klaus
  • Ute HamerEmail author
Regular Article



The aim of this study was to identify how land-use intensity shapes the kinetic properties of extracellular hydrolytic enzymes (EHEs) in rhizosphere soil among and within plant species representing different i) resource acquisition strategies (exploitative (ex) vs. conservative (co) plant species) and ii) response types to land-use intensification (winner (Wi) vs. loser (Lo), i.e. species that increase in abundance due to land-use intensification vs. species that decrease in abundance).


The potential enzyme activities (Vmax) and the apparent substrate affinities (Km) of β-cellobiohydrolase (CBH), β-glucosidase (BG), xylanase (XYL), N-acetylglucosaminidase (NAG), and phosphomonoesterase (PH) were determined in rhizosphere samples of Agrimonia eupatoria (co, Lo), Dactylis glomerata (ex, Wi), Lotus corniculatus (co, Lo), Taraxacum sect. Ruderalia (ex, Wi) and Trifolium repens (ex, Wi). Samples (n = 37) were taken on six permanent grasslands along a gradient in land-use intensity in central Germany.


Plant species identity and performance of species to land-use intensity are less important for explaining enzyme kinetics than are land-use intensity and associated changes in soil properties (especially organic carbon, pH and C:N ratio) and composition of the surrounding plant community, i.e. the abundance of herbs and plant diversity. However, the rhizosphere of winner species of intensive land-use was characterized by higher Km of CBH and two out of the three winners were associated with lower Km of PH. Higher Vmax of XYL in the rhizosphere of winner species suggest higher production of hemicellulose-degrading enzymes in rhizospheres of higher land-use intensity.


This study demonstrates that both land-use intensity and to a lower degree the type of plants’ resource acquisition strategy affect EHEs of C-, N-, and P-cycles in the rhizosphere. Rhizospheres of common grassland species are hotspots of hemicellulose, chitin, and organic P degradation but not of cellulose degradation. Further studies should consider variations in the kinetics of EHEs as a function of root orders and soil depths.


Michaelis-Menten kinetics C-, N- and P- cycling enzyme activities Permanent grassland Fertilization Plant species identity Hainich region 



We thank the two anonymous reviewers for their highly valuable comments which helped us to substantially improve the manuscript. The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support by the DFG (German Research Foundation) for the subprojects HA 4597/6-3 and KL 2265/5-1 within the DFG Priority Program 1374 “Biodiversity-Exploratories”. The contribution of AT was partly funded by the Collaborative Research Centre AquaDiva (CRC 1076 AquaDiva) of the Friedrich Schiller University Jena, funded by DFG. We thank the team of the ILOEK-laboratory in Münster for help during lab analyses and the manager of the Hainich-Dün Exploratory Katrin Lorenzen for their work in realizing this experiment and maintaining the sites and project infrastructure, Christiane Fischer and Jule Mangels for giving support through the central office, Michael Owonibi for managing the central data base, and Markus Fischer, Eduard Linsenmair, Dominik Hessenmöller, Daniel Prati, Jens Nieschulze, François Buscot, Ernst-Detlef Schulze, Wolfgang W. Weisser and the late Elisabeth Kalko for their role in setting up the Biodiversity Exploratories project. Field work permits were issued by the responsible state environmental office of Thüringen. We also thank Svenja Kunze for untiring commitment during fieldwork campaigns.

Supplementary material

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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Soil ScienceFriedrich-Schiller University JenaJenaGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Landscape EcologyUniversity of MünsterMünsterGermany
  3. 3.Institute of Landscape Ecology and Resource ManagementJustus-Liebig-University GießenGiessenGermany
  4. 4.Institute of Agricultural SciencesETH ZürichZürichSwitzerland

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