Environmental Earth Sciences

, Volume 71, Issue 1, pp 375–381

Pasture degradation effects on soil quality indicators at different hillslope positions in a semiarid region of western Iran

  • Shamsollah Ayoubi
  • Nazanin Emami
  • Nasrin Ghaffari
  • Naser Honarjoo
  • Kanwar L. Sahrawat
Original Article


A study was made to determine the influence of pasture degradation on soil quality indicators that included physical, chemical, biological and micromorphological attributes, along the hillslope positions in Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari province, western Iran. Soil samples from different slope positions were collected from 0 to 30 cm depth for physical and chemical properties and from 0 to 15 cm depth for biological properties at two adjacent sites in the two ecosystems: natural pasture and cultivated land. Soil quality indicators including bulk density, mean weight diameter, soil organic carbon (SOC), particulate organic material (POM) in aggregate fractions, total nitrogen, available potassium, available phosphorus, cation exchange capacity, soil microbial respiration (SMR) and microbial biomass C and N were determined. The results showed that SOC decreased cultivation from 1.09 to 0.77 % following pasture degradation. The POM decreased by about 19.35 % in cultivated soils when compared to natural pasture; also, SMR and microbial biomass C and N decreased significantly following pasture degradation. Furthermore, aggregate stability and pore spaces decreased, and bulk density increased in the cultivated soils. Overall, our results showed that long-term cultivation following pasture degradation led to a decline in soil quality in all selected slope positions at the site studied in the semiarid region.


Hillslope Land use change Pasture Slope position Soil quality 


  1. Adesodun JK, Davidson DA, Hopkins DW (2005) Micromorphological evidence for faunal activity following application of sewage and biocide. Soil Ecol 29:39–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alvarez MF, Osterrieth ML, del Río JL (2012) Organic matter fractionation in aggregates typical Argiudolls southeastern Buenos Aires and its relation to different soil uses: a preliminary study. Environ Earth Sci 65:505–515CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Anderson JPE, Domsoh KH (1978) Mineralization of bacteria and fungi in chloroform-fumigated soils. Soil Biol Biochem 10:207–213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Angers DA, Mehuys GR (1993) Aggregate stability to water. In: Carter MR (ed) Soil sampling and methods of analysis. Lewis, Boca RatonGoogle Scholar
  5. Ayoubi S, Khormali F, Sahrawat KL, Rodrigues de Lima AC (2011) Assessing impact of land use change on soil quality indicators in a loessial soil in Golestan province. Iran J Agric Sci Technol 13:727–742Google Scholar
  6. Ayoubi S, Mokhtari Karchegani P, Mosaddeghi MR, Honarjoo N (2012) Soil aggregation and organic carbon as affected by topography and land use change in western Iran. Soil Till Res 121:18–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Baruah TC, Barthakur HP (1997) A textbook of soil analysis. Vikas, New DelhiGoogle Scholar
  8. Blecker SW, Stillings LL, Amacher MC, Ippolito JA, DeCrappeo NM (2013) Development and application of a soil organic matter-based soil quality index in mineralized terrane of the Western US. Environ Earth Sci 68:1887–1901CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cambardella CA, Gajda AM, Doran JW, Wienhold BJ, Kettler TA (2001) Estimation of particulate and total organic matter by weight loss-on-ignition. In: Lal R, Kimble J, Follett R, Stewart B (eds) Assessment methods for soil carbon. CRC, Boca RatonGoogle Scholar
  10. Celik I (2005) Land-use effects on organic matter and physical properties of soil in a southern Mediterranean highland of Turkey. Soil Till Res 83:270–277CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dengiz O, Kızılkaya R, Göl C, Hepşen Ş (2007) The Effects of different topographic positions on soil properties and soil enzymes activities. Asian J Chem 19:2295–2306Google Scholar
  12. Fallahzadeh J, Hajabbasi MA (2011) The effects of irrigation and cultivation on the quality of desert soil in central Iran. Land Degrad Dev 10:114–123Google Scholar
  13. Ghaffari N (2011) Soil micromorphology and mineralogy attributes in soils developed on different slope positions of hilly regions of western Iran. M.Sc Thesis. Islamic Azad University, Tabriz Branch, TabrizGoogle Scholar
  14. Hajabbasi MA, Jalalain A, Karimzadeh H (1997) Deforestation Effects on soil physical and chemical properties. Lordegan, Iran. Plant Soil 190:301–308CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Islam KR, Weil RR (2000) Land use effects on soil quality in a tropical forest ecosystem of Bangladesh. Agric Ecosyst Environ 79:9–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Jenkinson DS (1988) Determination of microbial biomass carbon and nitrogen in soil. In: Wilsom JR (ed) Advances in Nitrogen Cycling in Agricultural Ecosystems. CAB International, Wallingford, pp 368–386Google Scholar
  17. Kamusoko C, Aniya M (2007) Land use/cover change and landscape fragmentation analysis in the Bindura District, Zimbabwe. Land Degrad Dev 18:221–233CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Karchegani P, Ayoubi S, Mosaddeghi MR, Honarjoo N (2012) Soil organic carbon pools in particle-size fractions as affected by slope gradient and land use change in hilly regions, western Iran. J Mountain Sci 9:87–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Khormali F, Nabiallahy K (2009) Degradation of Mollisols as affected by land use change. J Agric Sci Technol 11:363–374Google Scholar
  20. Khormali F, Shamsi S (2009) Micromorphology and quality attributes of the loess derived soils affected by land use change: a case study in Ghapan watershed, Northern Iran. J Mountain Sci 6:197–204CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Khormali F, Ajami M, Ayoubi S, Srinivasarao C, Wani SP (2009) Role of deforestation and hillslope position on soil quality attributes of loess-derived soils in Golestan province. Iran. Agric Ecosyst Environ 134:178–189CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kiani F, Jalalian A, Pashaee A, Khademi H (2004) Effect of deforestation on selected soil quality attributes in loess-derived landforms of Golestan province, northern Iran. Proceeding of International Iran and Russia Conference, 546–550Google Scholar
  23. Kızılkaya R, Dengiz O (2010) Variation of land use and land cover effects on some soil physico-chemical characteristics and soil enzyme activity. Zemdirbyste-Agric 97:15–24Google Scholar
  24. Lal R (2004) Carbon sequestration in soils of central Asia. Land Degrad Dev 15:563–572CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lemenih M (2004) Effects of land use changes on soil quality and native flora degradation and restoration in the highlands of Ethiopia, Doctoral thesis, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, UppsalaGoogle Scholar
  26. Li B, Tang H, Wu L, LI Q, Zhou C (2012) Relationships between the soil organic carbon density of surface soils and the influencing factors in differing land uses in Inner Mongolia. Environ Earth Sci 65:195–202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Majaliwa JG, Twongyirwe R, Nyenje R, Oluka M, Ongom B, Sirike J, Mfitumukiza D, Azanga E, Natumanya R, Mwerera R, Barasa B (2010) The effect of land cover change on soil properties around Kibale national park in southwestern Uganda. Appl Environ Soil Sci 10:1–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Mendham DS, Heagney EC, Corbeels M (2004) Soil particulate organic matter effects on nitrogen availability after afforestation with Eucalyptus globulus. Soil Biol Biochem 36:1067–1074CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Nael M, Khademi H, Hajabbasi MA (2004) Response of soil quality indicators and their spatial variability to land degradation in central Iran. Appl Soil Ecol 27:221–232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Nardi S, Cocheri G, Dell Agnola G (1996) Biological activity of humus. In: Piccolo A (ed) Humic substances in terrestrial ecosystems. Elsevier, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  31. Nelson DW, Sommers LE (1982) Total carbon, organic carbon, and organic matter. In: Page AL, Miller RH, Keeney DR (eds) Methods of soil analysis. Part 2, chemical and microbiological properties, vol 9, 2nd edn. Agron, Madison, pp 539–579Google Scholar
  32. Puget P, Lal R (2005) Soil organic carbon and nitrogen in a Mollisol in central Ohio as affected by tillage and land use. Soil Till Res 80:201–213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Shahriari A, Khormali F, Kehl M, Ayoubi S, Welp G (2011) Effect of a long-term cultivation and crop rotations on organic carbon in loess derived soils of Golestan Province, Northern Iran. Int J Plant Prod 5(2):147–152Google Scholar
  34. Shepherd MA, Harrison R, Webb J (2002) Managing soil organic matter: implications for soil structure on organic farms. Soil Use Manag 18:284–292CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Stoops G (2003) Guidelines for analysis and description of soil and regolith thin sections. SSSA, MadisonGoogle Scholar
  36. Stotzky G (1965) Microbial respiration. In: Black CA (ed) Methods of soil analysis, part 2. ASA, Madison, pp 1500–1572Google Scholar
  37. Vagen TG, Lal R, Singh BR (2006) Soil carbon sequestration in sub-Saharan Africa: a review. Land Degrad Dev 16:53–71CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Wilding NE, Smeck A, Hall GF (1983) Pedogenesis and soil taxonomy. II. The soil orders. Dev Soil Science 11:iii–xGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shamsollah Ayoubi
    • 1
  • Nazanin Emami
    • 2
  • Nasrin Ghaffari
    • 2
  • Naser Honarjoo
    • 3
  • Kanwar L. Sahrawat
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Soil ScienceCollege of Agriculture, Isfahan University of TechnologyIsfahanIran
  2. 2.Department of Soil and Water ScienceTabriz Branch, Islamic Azad UniversityTabrizIran
  3. 3.Department of Soil ScienceKhorasgan Branch, College of Agriculture, Islamic Azad UniversityIsfahanIran
  4. 4.International Crop Research Institute for the Semi Arid Tropic (ICRISAT)PatancheruIndia

Personalised recommendations