Resilience of soil functions to transient and persistent stresses is improved more by residue incorporation than the activity of earthworms

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Abstract

The development of soil sustainability is linked to the improved management of soil biota, such as earthworms, and crop residues to improve soil physical structure, enhance microbial activities, and increase nutrient cycling. This study examined the impacts of maize residue (65.8C/N ratio, dry biomass 0.75 kg m−2) incorporation and earthworms (70 g Metaphire guillelmi m−2) on the resistance and resilience of soil C and N cycling to experimentally applied stresses. Field treatments were maize residue incorporation, maize residue incorporation with earthworm addition, and an unamended control. Resistance and resilience of C mineralization, ammonia oxidation, and potential denitrification were investigated over 28 days following a persistent stress of Cu (1 mg Cu soil g−1) or a transient heat stress (50 °C for 16 h). The results indicated that C mineralization was more resistant and resilient than ammonia oxidation and denitrification to either a persistent Cu or a transient heat stress. The application of maize residues significantly increased soil microbial biomass, C mineralization, ammonia oxidation and potential denitrification compared with the unamended control. Maize residues significantly improved the resistance and resilience of N processes to Cu and heat stress. The presence of earthworms significantly increased potential denitrification but had limited positive effect on functional resistance and resilience. This study suggested crop residue incorporation would strongly increase soil functional resistance and resilience to persistent and transient stresses, and thus could be a useful agricultural practice to improve soil ecosystem sustainability.

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Shu, X., Hallett, P. D., Liu, M., Baggs, E. M., Hu, F., & Griffiths, B. S. (2019). Resilience of soil functions to transient and persistent stresses is improved more by residue incorporation than the activity of earthworms. Applied Soil Ecology, 139, 10–14. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apsoil.2019.03.008

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