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Journal of Environmental Management
Volume 285, 2021, 112144

Tree cover mediate indices related to the content of organic matter and the size of microbial population in semi-arid ecosystems

Yahya Kooch, Atefeh Shah Piri, Ghasem Ali Dianati Tilaki

Faculty of Natural Resources & Marine Sciences, Tarbiat Modares University, 46417-76489, Noor, Mazandaran, Iran.

Abstract

The type of vegetation cover affects the contents of organic matter and other soil features that can lead to variability of soil microbial processes, which play a key role in the nutrient cycle. This issue is especially important in mountainous semi-arid ecosystems, which have been introduced as fragile and vulnerable habitats. In the present study, labile contents of soil organic matter (SOM), microbial and enzymatic indices under the influence of forest and rangeland cover [i.e. natural forest with dominant species of Zelkova carpinifolia (Pall.) K. Koch. And three rangeland covers, converted form forest site almost 30 years ago, with dominant species of Festuca ovina L. Dactylis glomerata L. and Stachys byzantina K. Koch.] in Northern Iran have been considered including seasonal changes. The study aimed to investigate i) the effect of forest conversion to rangelands on SOM fractions, (ii) temporal dynamics of soil microbial processes and enzyme functions in different vegetation types, and (iii) determining the relationship between indices related to the content of organic matter and the size of microbial population in mountain ecosystems. Results showed that Zelkova tree type enhanced the levels of SOM contents, carbon and nutrient (nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, calcium and magnesium) pools, and also with higher values in the summer season, the size of microbial population and processes. Additionally, the SOM turnover and microbial efficiency were almost suppressed in order to Zelkova > Festuca > Dactylis > Stachys vegetation types, respectively. Based on the obtained results, it can be concluded that the presence of tree cover in mountain ecosystems can strengthen soil function and create fertile islands. Therefore, the protection of natural forests is emphasized for the proper management and sustainability of habitats in semi-arid regions.

Keywords: Forest cover, Rangeland, Organic matter, Nutrient pools, Microbial function.

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