We investigated the temporal and among-site differentiation of soil functionality properties in fields under different grazing intensities (heavy and light) and compared them to those found in their adjacent hedgerows, consisting either of wooden shrubs (Rubus canescens) or of high trees (Populus sp.), during the cold and humid seasons of the year. We hypothesized that greater intensity of grazing would result in higher degradation of the soil system. The grazing factor had a significant effect on soil organic C and N, microbial biomass C, microbial biomass N, microbial activity, and β-glucosidase, while acid phosphatase and urease activity were not found to differ significantly among the management systems. The intensity of grazing affected mostly the chemical properties of soil (organic C and N) and altered significantly the composition of the soil microbial community, as lower C:N ratio of the microbial biomass indicates the dominance of bacteria over fungi in the heavily grazed fields. All estimated biological variables presented higher values in the humid period, although the pattern of differentiation was similar at both sampling times, revealing that site-specific variations were more pronounced than the time-specific ones. Our results indicate that not all C, N, and P dynamics were equally affected by grazing. Management plans applied to pastures, in order to improve soil quality properties and accelerate passive reforestation, should aim at the improvement of soil parameters related primarily to C and secondly to N cycle.
Environmental Monitoring and Assessment – Springer Journals
Published: Aug 8, 2017
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