Soil microbial biomass in semi-arid-communal sandy rangelands in the Western Bophirima district, South Africa
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Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/44113
Internet URL: http://www.ecology.kee.hu/pdf/0501_043056.pdf
Soil microbial biomass is considered as an important early indicator of changes that may occur in the long term with regard to soil fertility and constitutes an important source and sink of nutrients. In South Africa, rangeland monitoring has mostly focused on assessing changes of aboveground vegetation in response to land uses effects, but the associated changes at belowground soil level remain a topic of further research. The aim of this study was to explore soil microbial biomass at three sites under communal grazing management. Soils from grazed and adjacent ungrazed rangeland plots were collected at a depth of 0-25 cm towards the end of the rainy season in April 2005. The soil microbial biomass was characterized by analyzing the phospholipids ester-linked fatty acids. Soils were also analyzed for organic carbon, pH, and total phosphorus. Results showed no statistically significant differences in organic carbon and soil microbial biomass between the grazed and ungrazed plots at any of the sites. Both organic carbon and soil microbial biomass were low, ranging from 0.06 to 0.11% and 489.28 pmol g-1 to 1823.04 pmol g- 1 , respectively. Fourteen grass species were recorded during the vegetation surveys, and most occurred in low abundance. Plants supply organic materials as energy sources for microbial growth, so the low soil microbial biomass could be a reflection of the low vegetation abundance. This study provides essential baseline information regarding soil microbial activity never reported before in these rangelands. Further investigations are required for in-depth understanding of the underlying processes that regulate soil microbial biomass dynamics at these sites.