Key words Soil quality indicators
Soil biochemical properties
Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Agriculture, Forestry, Horticulture, Fishery, Domestic Science, Nutrition
Abstract The native soils of Galicia (NW Spain) exhibit a biochemical equilibrium such that total soil N is a function of five biochemical and microbiological parameters: microbial biomass C, mineralized N, phosphomonoesterase, β-glucosidase and urease activities. To investigate whether the ratio of the total N calculated from biochemical soil properties (Nc) and the total N as measured by the Kjeldahl method (Nk; Nc/Nk) can be used as an index of soil quality, we determined these variables and consequently the ratio in three kinds of disturbed soils: an artificially Cu-contaminated soil, two lignite mine soils, and a number of arable soils. In none of the studied soils did the individual biochemical parameters respond consistently to the factors influencing soil quality, but in all cases soil degradation was reflected by the Nc/Nk value, which differed more or less markedly from 100%. Nc/Nk can therefore be used for the rapid evaluation of soil degradation, since it distinguishes among biochemically balanced soils, soils in a transient state of high microbiological and biochemical activity and degraded soils. It can also serve as a reliable basis for the rapid calculation of the "ecological dose" (ED50) of soil pollutants. The use of Nc/Nk as an objective index of the biochemical quality of soils is recommended.
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