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Cattle trampling alters soil properties and changes soil microbial communities in a Swiss sub-alpine pasture


Hiltbrunner, David; Schulze, Sebastian; Hagedorn, Frank; Schmidt, Michael W I; Zimmmermann, Stephan (2012). Cattle trampling alters soil properties and changes soil microbial communities in a Swiss sub-alpine pasture. Geoderma, 170:369-377.

Abstract

Stock farming plays an important role in the agriculture of alpine regions although deleterious effects on the soils are most pronounced here. We investigated the effects of cattle trampling on soil physical, chemical and microbial properties in a Swiss sub-alpine pasture. About 10% of the study site was bare of vegetation as a result of repeated cattle trampling and the bulk density of these bare steps was 20% higher than of the soils unaffected by trampling. In the upper 25 cm, soil organic carbon (SOC) concentrations and total SOC stocks were 35% and 20% respectively lower than on the vegetated slope. As compared with the vegetated slope, topsoils of the bare steps featured narrower C:N-ratios and were more enriched in the 15N isotope, with typical values of deeper soil layers. This indicates that bare soils primarily evolved by erosion and not by a compaction, which might, together with the reduced litter input, explain the lower SOC contents. The abundances of soil microbes, estimated by the concentrations of phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA), were 30% smaller in the bare soils than in the vegetated areas. This depletion was most pronounced for fungi as expressed in the lower concentrations of the fatty acid 18:2�6.9 (45%) and ergosterol (50%). The lower fungal abundance very likely has negative consequences for the stability of the bare soils, since fungi play an important role in the formation of soil aggregates. In summary, our results show that cattle trampling decreases soil carbon storage and alters soil microbial community structure.

Stock farming plays an important role in the agriculture of alpine regions although deleterious effects on the soils are most pronounced here. We investigated the effects of cattle trampling on soil physical, chemical and microbial properties in a Swiss sub-alpine pasture. About 10% of the study site was bare of vegetation as a result of repeated cattle trampling and the bulk density of these bare steps was 20% higher than of the soils unaffected by trampling. In the upper 25 cm, soil organic carbon (SOC) concentrations and total SOC stocks were 35% and 20% respectively lower than on the vegetated slope. As compared with the vegetated slope, topsoils of the bare steps featured narrower C:N-ratios and were more enriched in the 15N isotope, with typical values of deeper soil layers. This indicates that bare soils primarily evolved by erosion and not by a compaction, which might, together with the reduced litter input, explain the lower SOC contents. The abundances of soil microbes, estimated by the concentrations of phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA), were 30% smaller in the bare soils than in the vegetated areas. This depletion was most pronounced for fungi as expressed in the lower concentrations of the fatty acid 18:2�6.9 (45%) and ergosterol (50%). The lower fungal abundance very likely has negative consequences for the stability of the bare soils, since fungi play an important role in the formation of soil aggregates. In summary, our results show that cattle trampling decreases soil carbon storage and alters soil microbial community structure.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Language:English
Date:2012
Deposited On:17 Jan 2013 09:23
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 16:21
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0016-7061
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoderma.2011.11.026
Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-70983

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