Plants mitigate restrictions to phosphatase activity in metal contaminated soils

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Environmental Pollution


Soil anthropogenic contaminants can limit enzymatic nutrient mineralization, either by direct regulation or via impacts on the microbial community, thus affecting plant growth in agricultural and non-agricultural soils. The impact on phosphatase activity of mixing two contaminated, post-industrial rail yard soils was investigated; one was vegetated and had high phosphatase function, the other was barren and had low enzymatic function. The two soils had different abiotic properties, including contaminant load, vegetation cover, soil aggregate size distribution, and phosphatase potential. An experimental gradient was established between the two soils to systematically vary the abiotic properties and microbial community composition of the two soils, creating a gradient of novel ecosystems. The time dependence of extracellular phosphatase activity, soil moisture, and organic matter content was assessed along this gradient in the presence and absence of plants. Initially, mixtures with higher percentages of functional, vegetated soil had higher phosphatase activities. Phosphatase activity remained unchanged through time (65 days) in all soil mixtures in unplanted pots, but it increased in planted pots. For example, in the presence of plants, phosphatase activity increased from 0.6 ± 0.1 to 2.4 ± 0.3 μmol•h−1•gdry soil−1 from day one to day 65 in the 1:1 functional:barren soil mixture. The presence of plants also promoted moisture retention. Inoculation of poorly functioning soil with 10% of the functional soil with its microbial community did not, over 65 days, revitalize the poorly functioning soil. The findings showed that abiotic limitations to enzymatic activity in barren brownfield soils could be mitigated by establishing primary production but not by the addition of enzymatically active microbial communities alone.



Journal ISSN / Book ISBN

85087032701 (Scopus)

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