Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 25, Issue 17, pp 16979–16990 | Cite as

Increased associated effects of topography and litter and soil nutrients on soil enzyme activities and microbial biomass along vegetation successions in karst ecosystem, southwestern China

  • Fujing Pan
  • Wei Zhang
  • Yueming Liang
  • Shujuan Liu
  • Kelin Wang
Research Article


Studying the influence of topography and litter and soil nutrients on soil enzymes and microbial biomass is important to the understanding of soil nutrient transformation and cycling, but these relationships in heterogeneous soils of karst ecosystem remains poorly understood. We determined environment factors influencing the urease (URS) and alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity and microbial biomass C and N (MBC and MBN) with advancing vegetation succession. The results showed that ALP increased but URS decreased with the advancing vegetation succession. The MBC and MBN were highest in shrubland, but both were lowest in grassland. The URS was positively correlated with the surface cover of rock outcrops (SRO) but negatively correlated with litter N, and soil available N and pH. Conversely, ALP was positively correlated with litter N, soil organic carbon (SOC), and soil available N and pH, but negatively correlated with soil total N. The MBC was positively related to litter quantities and SOC but negatively related to soil pH; the MBN was positively related to slope gradient (SLG), SOC, and soil total P and available P. Additionally, the trends of the index URS/MBN were grassland > secondary forest > shrubland > primary forest, but the index ALP/MBN increased with advancing vegetation succession. It indicated that soil microorganism mainly exudate extracellular URS and ALP to soils. We also found the interactions of topography (SLG and SRO), litter (nutrients and quantity), and soil (nutrients and pH) explained 42.00, 87.00, and 66.00% of the variations in URS, ALP, and microbial biomass, respectively. Path analysis showed that the topography had a directly positive effect on litter nutrients and quantities, but not on soil nutrients; the litter nutrients and quantities had direct positive effect on soil nutrients, which had direct effect on soil enzymes and microbial biomass; the relationships (R2) between the independent variable and enzymes activities and microbial biomass increased with advancing successions. Thus, it suggested that high SLG and SRO are good for collecting litters back to soils and then the topography, litter, and soil factors increased its controlling effect on soil enzymes activities and microbial biomass with advancing successions in karst ecosystem.


Alkaline phosphatase Karst Litter properties Microbial biomass Urease Vegetation succession 


Author contributions

Pan Fujing, Zhang Wei, and Wang Kelin designed the experiments; Pan Fujing, Zhang Wei, and Liu Shujuan performed the experiments; Pan Fujing and Zhang Wei conducted data analysis and manuscript preparation; Pan Fujing wrote the manuscript; Zhang Wei, Liang Yueming, and Wang Kelin helped perform the analysis and participated in constructive discussions.


This study was financially supported by the National Key Research and Development Program (2016YFC0502400), the National Key Basic Research Program of China (2015CB452703), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31670529; 41471445; 31741021), and the Natural Science Foundation of Guangxi (2016GXNSFBA380179).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Agro-ecological Processes in Subtropical Region, Institute of Subtropical AgricultureChinese Academy of SciencesChangshaChina
  2. 2.College of environmental science and engineeringGuilin University of TechnologyGuilinChina
  3. 3.Huanjiang Observation and Research Station for Karst EcosystemsHuanjiangChina
  4. 4.Karst Dynamics Laboratory, Ministry of Land and Resources, Institute of Karst GeologyChinese Academy of Geological SciencesGuilinChina
  5. 5.School of Environment and Chemical EngineeringFoshan UniversityFoshanChina

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