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A comparison of soil qualities of different revegetation types in the Loess Plateau, China

Chao Zhang, Sha Xue, Guo-Bin Liu and Zi-Lin Song
Plant and Soil
Vol. 347, No. 1/2 (2011), pp. 163-178
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/24130325
Page Count: 16
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Abstract

Serious soil erosion has resulted in widespread land degradation in the Loess Plateau of China. In the past two decades, great efforts have been made to restore degraded soil such as reconverting croplands into forestlands or grasslands. A comparison of soil qualities of different revegetation types has important implications in soil reclamation. Our study investigated the effect of different revegetation types on the physicochemical and microbial soil properties in the Loess Plateau, with the aim of determining which revegetation type has the best capacity for soil recovery. The vegetation types included two shrublands (Caragana korshinskii and Hippophae rhamnoides), two grasslands (Astragalus adsurgens and Panicum virgatum), and two species from croplands that were abandoned for natural recovery (Artemisia capillaries and Heteropappus altaicus). Among the plants studied, H. altaicus and A. capillaries had the highest values of soil organic C, total N, total P, available N, available P, moisture content, microbial biomass C (MBC), substrate-induced respiration, saccharase, urease, catalase, and peroxidase. Soil sampled from the A. adsurgens plot had the highest bulk density and microbial biomass N, and soil from the H. rhamnoides plot had the highest metabolic quotient (basal respiration/MBC). The soil quality index, which was obtained based on the available N, metabolic quotient, MBC, urease, polyphenol oxidase, and bulk density, shows that the abandoned cropland for natural recovery had the highest soil quality, followed by grassland, and then shrubland. Vegetation types affect the physicochemical and microbial properties of soils in arid climatic conditions. Abandoned cropland for natural recovery has the best capacity for improving soil quality in the Loess Plateau among all studied revegetation types. Our study suggests that in the Loess Plateau, natural recovery is the best choice for soil revegetation of sloping croplands.

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