Soil carbon (C) sequestration and stabilization are determined by not only the C input to the soil but also the decomposition rate of soil organic matter (SOM), which is mainly mediated by soil microbes. Afforestation, an effective practice to restore forests from degraded or bare lands, may alter soil microbial properties, and thus soil C and nitrogen (N) dynamics. The aim of this study was to investigate the impacts of different afforestation strategies on soil microbial compositions and activities after afforestation for half a century. Soil samples were collected from two afforested sites (i.e., a restored secondary forest (RSF) and a managed Eucalyptus forest (MEP)) and two reference sites (i.e., a nearby undisturbed forest (UF), representing the climax vegetation and a bare land (BL), representing the original state before restoration) in south China. We quantified the soil microbial biomass, microbial community compositions, and activities of nine extracellular enzymes at different soil depths and in different seasons. Results showed that the soil microbial biomass, all the main soil microbial groups, and the activities of all extracellular enzymes were significantly increased after afforestation compared to the BL sites, while the ratios of fungi/bacteria (F/B), specific enzyme activities, and the ecoenzymatic stoichiometry were significantly decreased regardless of the season and soil depth. Between the two afforested sites, these microbial properties were generally higher in the RSF than MEP. However, the microbial properties in the RSF were still lower than those in the UF, although the differences varied with different seasons, soil depths, and microbial groups or enzymes. Our findings demonstrated that afforestation might significantly improve microbial properties. Afforestation is more effective in mixed-species plantation than in the monoculture Eucalyptus plantation but needs a much longer time to approach an equivalent level to the primary forests.
Zhang, H.; Xiong, X.; Wu, J.; Zhao, J.; Zhao, M.; Chu, G.; Hui, D.; Zhou, G.; Deng, Q.; Zhang, D. Changes in Soil Microbial Biomass, Community Composition, and Enzyme Activities After Half-Century Forest Restoration in Degraded Tropical Lands. Forests 2019, 10, 1124. https://doi.org/10.3390/f10121124