Drought decreases soil enzyme activity in a Mediterranean Quercus ilex L. forest

J. Sardans, J. Peñuelas

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    306 Citations (Scopus)


    Longer and more severe drought periods are expected in the near future for Mediterranean ecosystems. Soil enzymes play an essential role in the nutrient mineralization and their activity is an exceptional sensor in predicting the capacity of nutrient supply to plants. We conducted an experiment of water availability manipulation in evergreen oak mountain stands with the aim to study the effects of enhanced drought on the activity of five soil enzymes. The drought treatment consisted of runoff exclusion by a ditch along the entire top edge of the upper part of treatment plots and partial rain exclusion by suspending PVC strips and funnels. The reduction of 10% of soil moisture produced by runoff exclusion decreased urease activity by 10-67%, protease activity by 15-66% and β-glucosidase activity by 10-80%, depending on annual period and soil depth. The reduction of 21% of soil moisture produced by runoff and rainfall exclusion together reduced urease activity by 42-60%, protease activity by 35-45%, β-glucosidase activity by 35-83% and acid phosphatase activity by 31-40%. No significant effects were observed on alkaline phosphatase activity. The activities of the enzymes involved in the nitrogen cycle, protease and urease, were the most affected by drought. In all cases, the activities of these enzymes strongly decreased with soil depth and they were greater in spring than in autumn. These results show the link between drought and a slower nutrient turn-over, which decreases the nutrient supply to plants. © 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)455-461
    JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2005


    • Climate change
    • Global change
    • Mediterranean
    • Phosphatases
    • Protease
    • Quercus ilex
    • Urease
    • Water stress
    • β-glucosidase


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