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

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Abstract

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.

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Fig. 1
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Abbreviations

BC:

Biochar

BioS:

Biosolids

VC:

Vegetative yard waste compost

DM:

A designer mix

WTR:

Drinking water treatment residual

FDA:

Fluorescein diacetate

PLFA:

Phospholipid fatty acid

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Acknowledgments

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.

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Correspondence to Richard P. Dick.

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Carlson, J., Saxena, J., Basta, N. et al. Application of organic amendments to restore degraded soil: effects on soil microbial properties. Environ Monit Assess 187, 109 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10661-015-4293-0

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