The content levels and activities of the microbiota were estimated in topsoils and in one soil profile at agricultural and forest sites of the Bornh�ved Lake district in northern Germany. Discrepancies between data achieved by fumigation-extraction (FE) and substrate-induced respiration (SIR), both used for the quantification of microbial biomass, were attributed to the composition of the microbial populations in the soils. In the topsoils, the active, glucose-responsive (SIR) versus the total, chloroform-sensitive microbial (FE) biomass decreased in the order; field maize monoculture (field-MM)1field crop rotation (field-CR) and dry grassland1beech forest. This ratio decreased within the soil profile of the beech forest from the litter horizon down to the topsoil. Differences between microbial biomass and activities suggested varying biomassspecific transformation intensities in the soils. The metabolic quotient (qCO2), defined as the respiration rate per unit of biomass, indicates the efficiency in acquiring organic C and the intensity of C mineralization, while biomass-specific arginine-ammonification (arginineammonification rate related to microbial biomass content) seems to be dependent on N availability. The qCO2, calculated on the basis of the total microbial biomass, decreased for the topsoils in the same order as did the ratio between the active, glucose-responsive microbial biomass to the total, chloroform-sensitive microbial biomass, in contrast to qCO2 values based on the glucose-responsive microbial biomass, which did not. There was no difference between the levels of biomass- specific arginine-ammonification in topsoils of the fertilized field-CR, fertilized field-MM, fertilized dry grassland and eutric alder forest, but levels were lower in the beech forest, dystric alder forest, and unfertilized wet grassland topsoils. Ratios between values of different microbiological features are suggested to be more useful than microbiological features related to soil weight when evaluating microbial populations and microbially mediated processes in soils.
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