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Development and application of a soil organic matter-based soil quality index in mineralized terrane of the Western US

April 1, 2013

Soil quality indices provide a means of distilling large amounts of data into a single metric that evaluates the soil’s ability to carry out key ecosystem functions. Primarily developed in agroecosytems, then forested ecosystems, an index using the relation between soil organic matter and other key soil properties in more semi-arid systems of the Western US impacted by different geologic mineralization was developed. Three different sites in two different mineralization types, acid sulfate and Cu/Mo porphyry in California and Nevada, were studied. Soil samples were collected from undisturbed soils in both mineralized and nearby unmineralized terrane as well as waste rock and tailings. Eight different microbial parameters (carbon substrate utilization, microbial biomass-C, mineralized-C, mineralized-N and enzyme activities of acid phosphatase, alkaline phosphatase, arylsulfatase, and fluorescein diacetate) along with a number of physicochemical parameters were measured. Multiple linear regression models between these parameters and both total organic carbon and total nitrogen were developed, using the ratio of predicted to measured values as the soil quality index. In most instances, pooling unmineralized and mineralized soil data within a given study site resulted in lower model correlations. Enzyme activity was a consistent explanatory variable in the models across the study sites. Though similar indicators were significant in models across different mineralization types, pooling data across sites inhibited model differentiation of undisturbed and disturbed sites. This procedure could be used to monitor recovery of disturbed systems in mineralized terrane and help link scientific and management disciplines.

Publication Year 2013
Title Development and application of a soil organic matter-based soil quality index in mineralized terrane of the Western US
DOI 10.1007/s12665-012-1876-8
Authors S.W. Blecker, Lisa L. Stillings, M.C. Amacher, J.A. Ippolito, N.M. DeCrappeo
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Environmental Earth Sciences
Index ID 70178655
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center; Western Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center