Biological properties of soil and subsurface sediments under abandoned pasture and cropland

Walter K. Dodds, Margaret K. Banks, Courtney S. Clenan, Charles W. Rice, David Sotomayor, Eric A. Strauss, Wei Yu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Little is known about the effects of most surface land-use practices on shallow subsurface microbial communities. We analyzed duplicate cores taken aseptically from up to 10 m depth from unconsolidated valley sediments (soils) beneath an abandoned pasture reverting to tall grass prairie and cropland. Both profiles had similar soil texture, with moderately higher silt under cropland and a slight decrease in clay with depth. Soluble organic C was about two times higher in the grassland site and dissolved O2 was about 8% lower compared with the cropland site. Water content and C-to-N ratios were greatest at the grassland surface but were less in the grassland than the cropland site within 2 m depth. In general, numbers of aerobic heterotrophic bacteria and protozoa decreased with depth until the saturated zone (4.3 m in grassland and 5.3 m in the cropland site). Bacterial numbers as determined by plate counts were about 10-fold less at the groundwater interface than in the surface soils at both sites. Direct microscopic counts of total bacteria were approximately the same in the surface soil and the sediments at the top of the water table at both sites. The top of the water table generally did not exhibit elevated microbial biomass or activity relative to deeper sediments. There was no significant relationship between protozoan numbers and microbial thymidine uptake at the cropland site, but a negative relationship was observed at the grassland site. The data suggest that cultivation may affect microbial biomass and activity in the subsurface, as well as community interactions between protozoa and bacteria.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)837-846
Number of pages10
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Soil Science


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