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01.03.2011 | Original Article | Ausgabe 5/2011

Environmental Earth Sciences 5/2011

Changes in soil physico-chemical and microbiological properties during natural succession on abandoned farmland in the Loess Plateau

Zeitschrift:
Environmental Earth Sciences > Ausgabe 5/2011
Autoren:
Bing Wang, Guo Bin Liu, Sha Xue, Bingbing Zhu

Abstract

The re-establishment of natural species-rich heath lands on abandoned farmland is one of the main measures in soil erosion control in the Loess Plateau of China. So, it is important to understand how the vegetation and soil properties develop after land abandonment. The objective of this study was to determine how physico-chemical properties, microbial biomass, and enzyme activities changed for abandoned farmland with an age sequence of 0, 1, 5, 7, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 40 and 50 years in Zhifanggou watershed (8.27 km2), Shaanxi Province, NW China. The results of this study indicate that species succession after land abandonment in the Zhifanggou watershed on the Loess Plateau resulted in a significant improvement in soil chemical and microbiological properties. Soil organic C, total N, available N and K, soil microbial biomass C, N and P, as well as alkaline phosphatase, catalase, saccharase, and cellulase activity increased with time since plantation establishment increased. In contrast, soil bulk density, pH, and polyphenol oxidase activity decreased after farmland abandonment. Urease and α-amylase decreased until 15 years at the early phase of species succession, and then increased. However, there was no significant change in total P and available P during the restoration. Results only implied the tendency that the herbage was developing toward shrub. Although secondary succession plays an important role which improved soil properties after farmland abandonment, the values of these parameters were still much lower than native forest in 50 years. Thus, vegetation recovery after farmland abandonment in a semi-arid environment would be slow and the improvement of soil properties in the Loess Plateau is likely to require a considerably long period of time.

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