Servizio Comunitario di Informazione in materia di Ricerca e Sviluppo - CORDIS

Microbial decomposition of organic matter

The influence of land use change on decomposition of organic matter in agricultural soils was examined. The experimental design involved laboratory incubations only. Agricultural soils from three climate types were incubated under constant temperature and moisture (temperature soils from Denmark, continental from southern Germany and mediterranean from southern Italy). Samples were examined 6-7 times during an incubation period of one year. Several microbiological and chemical ways of investigating soil were employed in the project including both traditional methods and methods developed during the project. Results gave some strong evidence which can be used for the planning of future European land use and biodiversity projects. The project identified parameters that may be used further for the prediction of land use impact. Biological as well as humus chemical parameters give early warnings about functional changes caused by land management. Significant differences in decomposition rates were observed among the three soils, the Italian soil had the lowest mineralization rate; while there were no difference between the two treatments, mulched and incorporation after one year of decomposition. The microbiological results indicated that the soil management had a clear effect on the taxonomic composition (biodiversity) and functional ability of the degrader microflora, indicating changes which may influence productivity of the system with change in land use practice and change of climate in the long term. Results show the concern for carbon sequestration, conservation of nutrients and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions make land treatment and management a very important field for European environmental policy and the initial promising results need a thorough follow-up involving additional controlled incubations of other crops and most importantly field experiments in various zones of Europe.


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