Annals of Microbiology

, Volume 69, Issue 8, pp 849–859 | Cite as

The inhibitory effect of cadmium and/or mercury on soil enzyme activity, basal respiration, and microbial community structure in coal mine–affected agricultural soil

  • Liugen ZhengEmail author
  • Yang Li
  • Wenqin Shang
  • Xianglin Dong
  • Quan Tang
  • Hua Cheng
Original Article



The Cd and Hg contents in soils can be elevated due to coal mining. To estimate the effects of these two heavy metals on soil enzymes and the key microbial groups, coal mine–affected agricultural soils were cultured for 30 days with Cd and/or Hg.


Soil enzyme activities were measured by a colorimetric method, and microbial abundance was assessed according to real-time quantitative PCR analysis of the 16S rRNA and 18S rRNA genes. In addition, the microbial communities were analyzed by Illumina sequencing.


Heavy metals inhibited soil enzyme activities. For example, both Cd and Hg decreased 25.52–34.89% of the soil catalase activity; the highest level of Hg (30 mg kg−1) decreased 76.50–89.88% of the soil urease activity and 85.60–92.92% of the soil dehydrogenase activity; and the soil acid phosphatase activity significantly decreased by 15.18–32.64% under all the levels of Cd and decreased 17.09–30.32% under the high levels of the Cd–Hg combination (> 3 mg kg−1). In addition, increased Cd levels affected bacterial number more than fungal abundance; however, addition of Hg alone decreased the bacterial number but increased the fungal abundance. Furthermore, the bacterial communities but not fungal communities were altered by heavy metals. A total of 23 highly sensitive genera and 16 highly resistant genera were identified. The sensitive genera were assigned to Actinobacteria, Acidobacteria, Candidate division WS3, Chloroflexi, Gemmatimonadetes, Proteobacteria, and Thermotogae, while the resistant genera were affiliated to Bacteroidetes and Proteobacteria.


Soils containing the highest level of the combination of Cd and Hg exhibited the lowest soil enzyme activities; bacterial communities were more sensitive to heavy metal contamination than fungi.


Coal mine Agricultural soil Soil enzymes Bacterial community Fungal communities 



This work was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41373108), the Science and Technology Support Program of Anhui Provinces (1608085QD79), the Science and Technology Project of Land and Resources of Anhui Province (2013-K-07), and the Key Scientific and Technological Project of Huaibei Mining Industry (Group) Co., Ltd. (HBKY-2014-01).

Compliance with ethical standards

Research involving human participants and/or animals



All the authors have seen the manuscript and approved the publication of this work in the journal.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

13213_2019_1478_MOESM1_ESM.xls (319 kb)
ESM 1 (XLS 319 kb)
13213_2019_1478_MOESM2_ESM.xls (150 kb)
ESM 2 (XLS 149 kb)


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Copyright information

© Università degli studi di Milano 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Liugen Zheng
    • 1
    Email author
  • Yang Li
    • 1
  • Wenqin Shang
    • 1
  • Xianglin Dong
    • 2
  • Quan Tang
    • 3
  • Hua Cheng
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Resources and Environmental EngineeringAnhui UniversityHefeiChina
  2. 2.Geological Survey DivisionHuaibei Coal Mining Group CorporationHuaibeiChina
  3. 3.School of Life SciencesAnhui UniversityHefeiChina

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