Plant and Soil

, Volume 82, Issue 1, pp 41–50 | Cite as

Effect of topsoil storage on microbial activity, primary production and decomposition potential

  • S. Visser
  • J. Fujikawa
  • C. L. Griffiths
  • D. Parkinson


The effects of disturbing (cultivating) and stockpiling prairie grassland topsoil on microbial activity, microbial biomass C, plant production and decomposition potentials were studied by measuring CO2 efflux from unamended and glucose amended soil in the laboratory and by conducting a pot and litter bag study in the greenhouse. Stockpiling appeared to have very little effect on soil respiratory activity, but did reduce the microbial biomass C levels. Throughout the 3 year study the microbial biomass C in the surface soil of the stockpile was less than that in the undisturbed soil, while the biomass C in soil at the bottom of the stockpile was at no time significantly different from that in the undisturbed soil. The reduction in microbial biomass C in the surface soil immediately after stockpiling was attributed to a decrease in the soil organic C levels caused by a slight dilution of the topsoil with subsurface mineral soil, and the exposure of the stockpile surface to extreme environmental conditions. Soils from all depths of the stockpile responded more slowly to the addition of glucose than soil from the undisturbed and cultivated treatments even when no differences in biomass were detected between the undisturbed and stockpiled soils. It is postulated that the rapidity with which the soil microbial biomass responds to glucose additions may be a sensitive indicator of stress on the soil biological components. The reduction in biomass after storage for 1 year had no adverse effects on the decomposition or primary production potential of the stored soil. Rather, shoot production by fall rye was stimulated in the stored topsoil, presumably a result of better N nutrition.

Key words

Prairie grassland Microbial respiration Microbial biomass Fall rye Decomposition 


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Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff/Dr W. Junk Publishers 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. Visser
    • 1
  • J. Fujikawa
    • 1
  • C. L. Griffiths
    • 1
  • D. Parkinson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyThe University of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

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