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Changes in Labile Organic Carbon Fractions and Soil Enzyme Activities after Marshland Reclamation and Restoration in the Sanjiang Plain in Northeast China

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Abstract

The extensive reclamation of marshland into cropland has tremendously impacted the ecological environment of the Sanjiang Plain in northeast China. To understand the impacts of marshland reclamation and restoration on soil properties, we investigated the labile organic carbon fractions and the soil enzyme activities in an undisturbed marshland, a cultivated marshland and three marshlands that had been restored for 3, 6 and 12 years. Soil samples collected from the different management systems at a depth of 0–20 cm in July 2009 were analyzed for soil organic carbon (SOC), dissolved organic carbon (DOC), microbial biomass carbon (MBC) and easily degradable organic carbon. In addition, the activities of the invertase, β-glucosidase, urease and acid phosphatase were determined. These enzymes are involved in C, N and P cycling, respectively. Long-term cultivation resulted in decreased SOC, DOC, MBC, microbial quotient and C (invertase, β-glucosidase) and N-transforming (urease) enzyme activities compared with undisturbed marshland. After marshland restoration, the MBC and DOC concentrations and the soil invertase, β-glucosidase and urease activities increased. Soil DOC and MBC concentrations are probably the main factors responsible for the different invertase, β-glucosidase and urease activities. In addition, marshland restoration caused a significant increase in the microbial quotient, which reflects enhanced efficiency of organic substrate use by microbial biomass. Our observations demonstrated that soil quality recovered following marshland restoration. DOC, MBC and invertase, β-glucosidase and urease activities were sensitive for discriminating soil ecosystems under the different types of land use. Thus, these parameters should be considered to be indicators for detecting changes in soil quality and environmental impacts in marshlands.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to thank the editors Rebecca Efroymson and Virginia Dale and the four anonymous reviewers for their helpful and constructive reviewing of this paper. In addition, we thank the individuals at the Sanjiang Experimental Station of Wetland Ecology for providing necessary experimental instrumentation. This work was funded by the Key Project of Chinese Academy of Sciences (KZCX2-YW-JC301), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 41103038, 40930527), the National Basic Research Program (973) of China (No. 2009CB421103, 2010CB951304), and the “Strategic Priority Research Program-Climate Change: Carbon Budget and Related Issues” of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (XDA05050508).

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Correspondence to Changchun Song.

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Song, Y., Song, C., Yang, G. et al. Changes in Labile Organic Carbon Fractions and Soil Enzyme Activities after Marshland Reclamation and Restoration in the Sanjiang Plain in Northeast China. Environmental Management 50, 418–426 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-012-9890-x

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