Application of organic amendments to restore degraded soil: effects on soil microbial properties

  • Jennifer Carlson
  • Jyotisna Saxena
  • Nicholas Basta
  • Lakhwinder Hundal
  • Dawn Busalacchi
  • Richard P. Dick


Topsoil removal, compaction, and other practices in urban and industrial landscapes can degrade soil and soil ecosystem services. There is growing interest to remediate these for recreational and residential purposes, and urban waste materials offers potential to improve degraded soils. Therefore, the objective of this study was to compare the effects of urban waste products on microbial properties of a degraded industrial soil. The soil amendments were vegetative yard waste compost (VC), biosolids (BioS), and a designer mix (DM) containing BioS, biochar (BC), and drinking water treatment residual (WTR). The experiment had a completely randomized design with following treatments initiated in 2009: control soil, VC, BioS-1 (202 Mg ha−1), BioS-2 (403 Mg ha−1), and DM (202 Mg BioS ha−1 plus BC and WTR). Soils (0–15-cm depth) were sampled in 2009, 2010, and 2011 and analyzed for enzyme activities (arylsulfatase, β-glucosaminidase, β-glucosidase, acid phosphatase, fluorescein diacetate, and urease) and soil microbial community structure using phospholipid fatty acid analysis (PLFA). In general, all organic amendments increased enzyme activities in 2009 with BioS treatments having the highest activity. However, this was followed by a decline in enzyme activities by 2011 that were still significantly higher than control. The fungal PLFA biomarkers were highest in the BioS treatments, whereas the control soil had the highest levels of the PLFA stress markers (P < 0.10). In conclusion, one-time addition of VC or BioS was most effective on enzyme activities; the BioS treatment significantly increased fungal biomass over the other treatments; addition of BioS to soils decreased microbial stress levels; and microbial measures showed no statistical differences between BioS and VC treatments after 3 years of treatment.


Degraded soil Organic amendments Microbial properties Soil enzyme activities 







Vegetative yard waste compost


A designer mix


Drinking water treatment residual


Fluorescein diacetate


Phospholipid fatty acid



This research was supported in part by the Ecosystem Services Study of Degraded Soils Amended with Biosolids Program (Requisition number 1273877), Division of Monitoring and Research of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, Chicago, USA.


  1. Acosta-Martinez, V., Zobeck, T. M., Gill, T. E., & Kennedy, A. C. (2003). Enzyme activities and microbial community structure in semiarid agricultural soils. Biology and Fertility of Soils, 38, 216–227.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bååth, E., Frostegård, A., & Fritze, H. (1992). Soil bacterial biomass, activity, phospholipid fatty acid pattern, and pH tolerance in an area polluted with alkaline dust deposition. Applied Environmental Microbiology, 58, 4026–4031.Google Scholar
  3. Bandick, A. K., & Dick, R. P. (1999). Field management on soil enzyme activities. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 31, 1471–1479.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Basta, N. T., Busalacchi, D., Dick, R., Tvergyak, J., & Lanno, R. (2012). Ecosystem services study of degraded soils amended with biosolids. Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. Final Report Project 1273877, June (2012). pp79.Google Scholar
  5. Beesley, L., Moreno-Jiménez, E., & Gomez-Eyles, J. L. (2010). Effects of biochar and greenwaste compost amendments on mobility, bioavailability and toxicity of inorganic and organic contaminants in a multi-element polluted soil. Environmental Pollution, 158, 2282–2287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Beesley, L., Moreno-Jiménez, E., Gomez-Eyles, J. L., Harris, E., Robinson, B., & Sizmur, T. (2011). A review of biochars’ potential role in the remediation, revegetation and restoration of contaminated soils. Environmental Pollution, 159, 3268–3282.Google Scholar
  7. Bernal, M. P., Clemente, R., & Walker, D. J., (2006). The role of organic amendment in the bioremediation of heavy metal polluted soils. In Gore, R.W. (Ed.), Environmental Research at the Leading Edge. Nova Science, pp1-60.Google Scholar
  8. Bligh, E. G., & Dyer, W. J. (1959). A rapid method of total lipid extraction and purification. Canadian Journal of Biochemistry and Physiology, 37, 911–917.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bossio, D. A., & Scow, K. M. (1998). Impacts of carbon and flooding on soil microbial communities: phospholipid fatty acid profiles and substrate utilization patterns. Microbial Ecology, 35, 265–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brown, S. L., Henry, C. L., Chaney, R., Compton, H., & DeVolder, P. S. (2003). Using municipal biosolids in combination with other residuals to restore metal-contaminated mining areas. Plant and Soil, 249, 203–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Busalacchi, D. (2012). Evaluation of biosolids as a soil amendment for use in ecological restoration. Columbus: M.S. Thesis, The Ohio State University.Google Scholar
  12. City of Chicago. (2002). Calumet Area Land Use Plan. /plans/CalumetLandUsePlan Chicago, Il.
  13. Darby, H. M., Stone, A. G., & Dick, R. P. (2006). Compost and manure mediated impacts on soilborne pathogens and soil quality. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 70, 347–358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. de Boer, W., Folman, L. B., Summerbell, R. C., & Boddy, L. (2005). Living in a fungal world: impact of fungi on soil bacterial niche development. FEMS Microbiology Reviews, 29, 795–811.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Deng, S. P., & Tabatabai, M. A. (1997). Effect of tillage and residue management on enzyme activities in soils: III. Phosphatases and arylsulfatase. Biology and Fertility of Soils, 24, 141–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dick, R. P. (1994). Soil enzyme activities as indicators of soil quality. pp107–124. In Doran, J. W., et al. (eds.), Defining Soil Quality for a Sustainable Environment. SSSA Special Publication No. 35. American Society of Agronomy.Google Scholar
  17. Eivazi, F., & Tabatabai, M. A. (1977). Phosphatases in soils. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 9, 167–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Eivazi, F., & Tabatabai, M. A. (1988). Glucosidases and galactosidases in soils. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 20, 601–606.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Ekenler, M., & Tabatabai, M. A. (2002). β -Glucosaminidase activity of soils: effect of cropping systems and its relationship to nitrogen mineralization. Biology and Fertility of Soils, 36, 367–376.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Ekenler, M., & Tabatabai, M. A. (2004). β -Glucosaminidase activity as an index of nitrogen mineralization in soils. Communications in Soil Science and Plant Analysis, 35, 1081–1094.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Frostegård, A., Tunlid, A., & Bååth, E. (1991). Microbial biomass measured as total lipid phosphate in soils of different organic content. Journal of Microbiological Methods, 14, 151–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. García-Gil, J. C., Plaza, C., Senesi, N., Brunetti, G., & Polo, A. (2004). Effects of sewage sludge amendment on humic acids and microbiological properties of a semiarid Mediterranean soil. Biology and Fertility of Soils, 39, 320–328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Goering, K. H., & Van Soest, P. J. (1970). Forage fiber analyses: Apparatus, reagents, procedure, and some applications. Washington, D.C.: ARS U.S. Department Agricultural Handbook. No. 379.Google Scholar
  24. Green, V. S., Stott, D. E., & Diack, M. (2005). Assay for fluorescein diacetate hydrolytic activity: optimization for soil samples. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 38, 693–701.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gupta, V. V. S. R., & Germida, J. J. (1988). Distribution of microbial biomass and its activity in different soil aggregate size. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 20, 777–786.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hammel, K. E. (1997). Fungal degradation of lignin. In G. Cadish & K. E. Giller (Eds.), Driven by nature: Plant litter quality and decomposition (pp. 33–45). Wallingford: CAB International.Google Scholar
  27. Heanes, D. L. (1984). Determination of total organic-C in soils by an improved chromic acid digestion and spectrophotometric procedure. Communications in Soil Science and Plant Analysis, 15, 1191–1213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hinojosa, M. B., Carreira, J. A., Garcia-Ruiz, R., & Dick, R. P. (2005). Microbial response to heavy metal-polluted soils: community analysis from phospholipid-linked fatty acids and ester-linked fatty acid extracts. Journal of Environmental Quality, 34, 1789–1800.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Juma, N. G., & Tabatabai, M. A. (1977). Effects of trace elements on phosphatase activity in soils. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 41, 343–346.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kacprzak, M., & Stanczyk-Mazanek, E. (2003). Changes in the structure of fungal communities of soil treated with sewage sludge. Biology and Fertility of Soils, 38, 89–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kandeler, E., Kampichler, C., & Horak, O. (1996). Influence of heavy metals on the functional diversity of soil microbial communities. Biology and Fertility of Soils, 23, 299–306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kaur, A., Chaudhary, A., Kaur, A., Choudhary, R., & Kaushik, R. (2005). Phospholipid fatty acid: a bioindicator of environment monitoring and assessment in soil ecosystem. Current Science, 89, 1103–1112.Google Scholar
  33. Kizilkaya, R., & Bayrakli, B. (2005). Effects of N-enriched sewage on soil enzyme activities. Applied Soil Ecology, 30, 192–202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Knight, T. R., & Dick, R. P. (2004). Differentiating microbial and stabilized b-glucosidaseactivity relative to soil quality. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 36, 2089–2096.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Marschner, P., Kandeler, E., & Marschner, B. (2003). Structure and function of the soil microbial community in a long-term fertilizer experiment. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 35, 453–461.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Mebius, L. J. (1960). A rapid method for the determination of organic carbon in soil. Analytica Chimica Acta, 22, 120–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Mehlich, A. (1984). Mehlich-3 soil test extractant: a modification of Mehlich-2 extractant. Communications in Soil Science and Plant Analysis, 15, 1409–1416.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Miller, M., Palojarvi, A., Ranger, A., Reeslev, M., & Kjùller, A. (1998). The use of fluorogenic substrates to measure fungal presence and activity in soil. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 64, 613–617.Google Scholar
  39. Ndiaye, E. L., Sandeno, J. M., McGrath, D., & Dick, R. P. (2000). Integrative biological indicators for detecting change in soil quality. American Journal of Alternative Agriculture, 15, 26–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Nelson, D. W., & Sommers, L. E. (1996). Total carbon, organic carbon, and organic matter. In A. L. Page (Ed.), Methods of Soil Analysis. Part 2. Chemical and microbiological properties (2nd ed., pp. 961–1010). Madison: American Society of Agronomy and Soil Science Society of America.Google Scholar
  41. O'Connor, G. A., Elliott, H. A., Basta, N. T., Bastian, R. K., Pierzynski, G. M., Sims, R. C., & Smith, J. E., Jr. (2005). Sustainable land application: an overview. Journal of Environmental Quality, 34, 1–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Olander, L. P., & Vitousek, P. M. (2000). Regulation of soil phosphatase and chitinase activity by N and P availability. Biogeochemistry, 49, 175–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Parham, J. A., & Deng, S. P. (2000). Detection, quantification and characterization of b- glucosaminidase activity in soil. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 32, 1183–1190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Perez de Mora, A., Ortega-Calvo, J. J., Cabrera, F., & Madejon, E. (2005). Changes in enzyme activities and microbial biomass after “in-situ” remediation of a heavy metal-contaminated soil. Applied Soil Ecology, 28, 125–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Perucci, P. (1991). Enzyme activity and microbial biomass in a field soil amended with municipal refuse. Biology and Fertility of Soils, 14, 54–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Salomonova, S., Lamacova, J., Rulik, M., Rolcik, J., Cap, L., Bednar, P., & Bartak, P. (2003). Determination of phospholipid fatty acids in sediments. Acta Universitatis Palackianae Olomucensis Facultas Rerum Naturalium: Chemica, 42, 39–49.Google Scholar
  47. SAS Institute (2011). SAS user’s guide: Statistics. Cary, NC: SAS Inst.Google Scholar
  48. Schnürer, J., & Rosswall, T. (1982). Fluorescein diacetate hydrolysis as a measure of total microbial activity in soil and litter. Applied Environmental Microbiology, 43, 1256.Google Scholar
  49. Schutter, M. E., & Dick, R. P. (2000). Comparison of fatty acid methyl ester (FAME) methods for characterizing microbial communities. Soil Science Society of American Journal, 64, 1659–1668.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Serra-Wittling, C., Houot, S., & Barriuso, E. (1995). Soil enzymatic response to addition of municipal solid-waste compost. Biology and Fertility of Soils, 20, 226–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Speir, T. W., Van Schaik, A. P., Jones, A. R., & Kettles, H. A. (2003). Temporal response of soil biochemical properties in a pastoral soil after cultivation following high application rates of undigested sewage sludge. Biology and Fertility of Soils, 38, 377–385.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Tabatabai, M. A., & Bremner, J. M. (1969). Use of p-nitrophenyl phosphate for assay of soil phosphatase activity. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 1, 301–307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Tabatabai, M. A., & Bremner, J. M. (1970). Arylsulfatase activity of soils. Soil Science Society of America Procedures, 34, 225–229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Tejada, M., Hernandez, M. T., & García, C. (2006). Application of two organic amendments on soil restoration: effects on the soil biological properties. Journal of Environmental Quality, 35, 1010–1017.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (1991). Interagency policy on beneficial use of municipal sewage sludge on federal land; notice. Federal Registrar, 56, 30448–30450.Google Scholar
  56. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (2007a). Standards for the use and disposal of sewage sludge. USEPA, 40 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 503. Federal Registry, e-CFR.Google Scholar
  57. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (2007b). The use of soil amendments for remediation, revitalization, and reuse. EPA 542-R-07-013 December 2007.
  58. Uchimiya, M., Lima, I. M., Klasson, K. T., & Wartelle, L. H. (2010). Contaminant immobilization and nutrient release by biochar soil amendment: roles of natural organic matter. Chemosphere, 80, 935–940.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Whalen, J. K., Hu, Q., & Liu, A. (2003). Compost applications increase water-stable aggregates in conventional and no-tillage systems. Soil Science Society of American Journal, 67, 1842–1847.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Zaller, J. G., & Kopke, U. (2004). Effects of traditional and biodynamic farmyard manure amendment on yields, soil chemical, biochemical and biological properties in a long-term field experiment. Biology and Fertility of Soils, 40, 222–229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Zelles, L. (1999). Fatty acid patterns of phospholipids and lipopolysaccharides in the characterization of microbial communities in soil: a review. Biology and Fertility of Soils, 29, 11–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jennifer Carlson
    • 1
  • Jyotisna Saxena
    • 1
  • Nicholas Basta
    • 1
  • Lakhwinder Hundal
    • 2
  • Dawn Busalacchi
    • 3
  • Richard P. Dick
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Environment and Natural ResourcesThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  2. 2.Monitoring and Research DepartmentMetropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater ChicagoCiceroUSA
  3. 3.Ohio Environmental Protection AgencyColumbusUSA

Personalised recommendations