Soil organic matter stabilization and carbon-cycling enzyme activity are affected by land management


  • Ewa Błonska Department of Ecology and Silviculture, Faculty of Forestry, University of Agriculture, Al. 29 Listopada 46, Krakow, Poland
  • Jarosław Lasota Department of Ecology and Silviculture, Faculty of Forestry, University of Agriculture, Al. 29 Listopada 46, Krakow, Poland
  • Gilka Rocha Vasconcelos da Silva Department of Sustainable Land Management & Soil Research Centre, School of Agriculture, Policy and Development, University of Reading, Reading RG6 6AR, United Kingdom
  • Elena Vanguelova Centre for Ecosystems, Society and Biosecurity, Forest Research, Alice Holt Lodge, Farnham GU104LH, United Kingdom
  • Frank Ashwood Centre for Ecosystems, Society and Biosecurity, Forest Research, Alice Holt Lodge, Farnham GU104LH, United Kingdom
  • Mark Tibbett Department of Sustainable Land Management & Soil Research Centre, School of Agriculture, Policy and Development, University of Reading, Reading RG6 6AR, United Kingdom
  • Kevin Watts Centre for Ecosystems, Society and Biosecurity, Forest Research, Alice Holt Lodge, Farnham GU104LH, United Kingdom & Biological and Environmental Sciences, School of Natural Sciences, University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4LA, United Kingdom
  • Martin Lukac Department of Sustainable Land Management & Soil Research Centre, School of Agriculture, Policy and Development, University of Reading, Reading RG6 6AR, United Kingdom & Faculty of Forestry and Wood Sciences, Czech University of Life Sciences Prague, Kamýcká 129, 165 00 Praha, Czech Republic



enzyme activity, soil carbon accumulation, soil organic matter fraction


Increasing carbon (C) storage in soil is a key aspect of climate change mitigation strategies and requires an understanding of the impacts of land management on soil C cycling. The primary aim of this study is to investigate how land management impacts key soil organic matter stabilization and cycling processes affecting soil C storage. Soil sampling was undertaken across seven transects crossing the boundary between agriculture and forestry. The transects covered 3 pasture (AP) and 4 arable (AA) fields combined with 3 young secondary woodlands (50-60 years old - WY) and 4 mature/ancient semi-natural woodlands (110 to >400 years old – WM). Physical fractionation of soil organic matter pools was performed, together with pH, carbon and nitrogen content, as well as activity of four enzymes associated with C transformation in the soil. Woodland soils were associated with significantly higher content of light fraction C and greater enzyme activity in comparison to agricultural soils. Enzyme activity and soil organic C decreased with soil depth regardless of land-use type. We did not, however, observe any effect of the distance from the land use boundary on either enzyme activity and soil C pools. Our results indicate that analysis of soil organic matter (SOM) fractions can act as an indicator of decomposition rates of SOM in forest and agricultural ecosystems.


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