Assessment of the living and total biomass of microbial communities in the background chestnut soil and in the paleosols under burial mounds
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The contents of phospholipids and carbon of the total microbial biomass were determined in the modern chestnut soil and in the paleosols buried under mounds of the Bronze and Early Iron Ages (5000–1800 years ago) in the dry steppe of the Lower Volga River basin. Judging from data on the ratio between the contents of phospholipids and organic carbon in the microbial cells, the carbon content of the living microbial biomass was calculated and compared with the total microbial biomass and total organic carbon in the studied soils. In the background chestnut soil, the content of phospholipids in the A1, B1, and B2 horizons amounted to 452, 205, and 189 nmol/g, respectively; in the paleosols, it was 28–130% of the present-day level. The maximum content was measured in the paleosols buried 5000 and 2000 years ago, in the periods with an increased humidity of the climate. In the background chestnut soil, the total microbial biomass was estimated at 5680 (the A1 horizon), 3380 (B1), and 4250 (B2) μg C/g; in the paleosols, it was by 2.5–7.0 times lower. In the upper horizons of the background soil, the portion of the living microbial biomass in the total biomass was much less than that in the paleosols under the burial mounds; it varied within 8.5–15.3% and 15–81%, respectively. The portion of living microbial biomass in the total organic carbon content of the background chestnut soil was about 4–8%. In the paleosols buried in the Early Iron Age (2000 and 1800 years ago), this value did not exceed 3–8%; in the paleosols of the Bronze Age (5000–4000 years ago), it reached 40% of the total organic carbon.
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