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https://doi.org/10.5194/soild-2-187-2015
© Author(s) 2015. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/soild-2-187-2015
© Author(s) 2015. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Original research article 03 Mar 2015

Original research article | 03 Mar 2015

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This discussion paper is a preprint. It has been under review for the journal SOIL (SOIL). The manuscript was not accepted for further review after discussion.

Ecological soil quality affected by land use and management on semi-arid Crete

J. P. van Leeuwen1, D. Moraetis2, G. J. Lair3,4, J. Bloem5, N. P. Nikolaidis6, L. Hemerik1, and P. C. de Ruiter1,7 J. P. van Leeuwen et al.
  • 1Biometris, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 16, 6700 AA Wageningen, the Netherlands
  • 2College of Science, Earth Science Department, Sultan Qaboos University, P.O. Box 36, Muscat 123, Oman
  • 3Institute of Soil Research, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), Peter-Jordan-Straße 82, 1190 Vienna, Austria
  • 4Institute of Ecology, University of Innsbruck, Sternwartestraße 15, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria
  • 5Alterra, Wageningen University and Research Centre, P.O. Box 47, 6700 AA Wageningen, the Netherlands
  • 6Department of Environmental Engineering, Technical University of Crete, Polytechnioupolis, 73100 Chania, Greece
  • 7Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED), Faculty of Science, University of Amsterdam, P.O. Box 94248, 1090 GE Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Abstract. Land use and soil management practice can have strong effects on soil quality, defined in terms of soil fertility, carbon sequestration and conservation of biodiversity. In this study, we investigate whether ecological soil quality parameters are adequate to assess soil quality under harsh conditions, and are able to reflect different land uses and intensities of soil management practices.

We selected three sites as main representatives for the dominant types of land use in the region: an intensively cultivated olive orchard (annually tilled), an extensively used olive orchard (not tilled) and a heavily grazed pasture site in the Koiliaris catchment (Crete/Greece). Soil quality was analysed using an ecosystem approach, studying soil biological properties such as soil organism biomass and activity, and taxonomic diversity of soil microarthropods, in connection to abiotic soil parameters, including soil organic matter contents, and soil aggregate stability.

The intensively cultivated olive orchard had a much lower aggregate water stability than the extensive olive orchard and the pasture. Contents of soil organic C and N were higher in the extensively used olive orchard than in the intensively cultivated orchard, with intermediate concentrations in the pasture. This was mainly caused by the highest input of organic matter, combined with the lowest organic matter decomposition rate. Soil organism biomasses in all sites were relatively low compared to values reported from less harsh systems, while microarthropod richness was highest in the pasture compared to both the intensive and extensive olive orchards.

From the present results we conclude that microarthropod taxonomic richness is a very useful indicator for ecological soil quality, because it is not only able to separate harsh sites from other systems, but it is also sensitive enough to show differences between land management practices under harsh conditions. Microbial biomass and especially microarthropod biomass were much lower in our harsh study sites than reported from less affected areas, and have therefore also potential as biological indicators for degradation.

J. P. van Leeuwen et al.
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J. P. van Leeuwen et al.
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