Journal of Soils and Sediments

, Volume 19, Issue 5, pp 2393–2404 | Cite as

Biological indicators for evaluating soil quality improvement in a soil degraded by erosion processes

  • Aurelia Onet
  • Lucian C. Dincă
  • Paola GrenniEmail author
  • Vasile Laslo
  • Alin C. Teusdea
  • Diana L. Vasile
  • Raluca E. Enescu
  • Vlad E. Crisan
Soils, Sec 3 • Remediation and Management of Contaminated or Degraded Lands • Research Article



Erosion is one of the main soil degradation problems. It diminishes soil biological activity and therefore its quality. The aim of the study was to evaluate if the application of two biostimulation processes could significantly increase biological activity, and therefore productivity, in soils deteriorated by erosion. This was done without synthetic fertilizers but with treatments accessible for farmers, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In particular, the addition of a soil microorganism suspension or Macrocystis pyrifera algae concentrate was evaluated.

Materials and methods

Soil samples were taken from a field area (Bihor County, Romania) affected by surface erosion processes. In particular, microbial mass, dehydrogenase activity (DHA), and the bacteria and fungi presence were analyzed for three soil uses (corn, black locust and uncultivated field with terracing) and in different locations (above a slope, at the midpoint and below it). A bio-stimulation process (addition of a microbial suspension or seaweed concentrate based on the Macrocystis pyrifera algae; incubation for 24 h) was used in order to improve the activity of the soil with the lowest values of activity.

Results and discussion

Statistical differences in DHA, bacterial numbers, and microbial biomass were found depending on field use and the areas from which the soil samples were gathered. Higher values of the biological parameters were in general recorded in the middle part of the slope, because they favor bioaccumulation processes (e.g., actual and potential dehydrogenase activity values of about 3 mg TPF/10 g dry soil). The use of microbial suspensions did not significantly stimulate DHA for the soils with a low biological potential. This activity was stimulated by adding the seaweed concentrate to the soil.


The use of the seaweed concentrate can be a good practice for improving activity in eroded soil. The study provides useful indications for better soil fertility management, in line with many of the goals of the 2030 Agenda For Sustainable Development.


Algae Dehydrogenase activity Microbial metabolism Seaweed concentrate 


Supplementary material

11368_2018_2236_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (261 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 260 kb)


  1. Alef K (1995) Dehydrogenase activity. In: Alef K, Nannipieri P (eds) Methods in applied soil microbiology and biochemistry. Academic Press, London, pp 228–231Google Scholar
  2. Andjelković M, Van Camp J, De Meulenaer B, Depaemelaere G, Socaciu C, Verloo M, Verhe R (2006) Iron-chelation properties of phenolic acids bearing catechol and galloyl groups. Food Chem 98:23–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arioli T, Mattner VS, Winberg PC (2015) Applications of seaweed extracts in Australian agriculture: past, present and future. J Appl Phycol 27:2007–2015CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Atlas RM (2004) Handbook of microbiological media, third edition. Taylor & Francis Inc, Boca Raton, USAGoogle Scholar
  5. Balser T, Kinzig A, Firestone M (2002) The functional consequences of biodiversity. In: Kinzig A, Pacala S, Tilman D (eds) The functional consequences of biodiversity. Princeton University Press, Princeton, pp 265–293Google Scholar
  6. Battacharyya D, Babgohari MZ, Rathor P, Prithiviraj B (2015) Seaweed extracts as biostimulants in horticulture. Sci Hortic 196:39–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Berlyn GP, Russo RO (1990) The use of organic biostimulants to promote root growth. Below Gr Ecol 1:12–13Google Scholar
  8. Blunden G, Morse PF, Mathe I, Hohmann J, Critchleye AT, Morrell S (2010) Betaine yields from marine algal species utilized in the preparation of seaweed extracts used in agriculture. Nat Prod Commun 5(4):581–585Google Scholar
  9. Brzezińska M, Stępniewski W, Stępniewska Z, Przywara G (2001) Effect of oxygen deficiency on soil dehydrogenase activity in a pot experiment with Triticale CV. Jago Veg Int Agrophysics 15:145–149Google Scholar
  10. Campos JA, Peco JD, De Toro JA et al (2018) Approach to the potential usage of two wood ashes waste as soil amendments on the basis of the dehydrogenase activity and soil oxygen consumption. J Soils Sediments 18:2148–2156CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cavigelli MA, Robertson GP (2000) The functional significance of denitrifier community composition in a terrestrial ecosystem. Ecology 81:1402–1414CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Craigie JS (2011) Seaweed extract stimuli in plant science and agriculture. J Appl Phycol 23:371–393CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dincă L, Spârchez G, Dincă M (2014) Romanian’s forest soil GIS map and database and their ecological implications. Carpathian J Earth Environ Sci 9(2):133–142Google Scholar
  14. El-Naggar A, Lee SS, Awad YM, Yang X, Ryu C, Rizwan M, Rinklebe J, Tsang DCW, Ok YS (2018) Influence of soil properties and feedstocks on biochar potential for carbon mineralization and improvement of infertile soils. Geoderma 332:100–108CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Eurostat (2017) Agri-environmental indicator - greenhouse gas emissions. Available at Accessed Dec 2018
  16. FAO (2015) Global guidelines for the restoration of degraded forests and landscapes in drylands: building resilience and benefiting livelihoods. Forestry paper no. 175. Rome: FAOGoogle Scholar
  17. Fierer N, Schimel JP, Holden PA (2003) Variations in microbial community composition through two soil depth proles. Soil Biol Biochem 35:167–176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fuentes-Ponce M, Moreno-Espíndola I, Pávela Sánchez-Rodríguez LM, Ferrara-Guerrero MJ, López-Ordaz R (2016) Dehydrogenase and mycorrhizal colonization: tools for monitoring agrosystem soil quality. Appl Soil Ecol 100:144–153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Geisseler D, Horwath W, Scow K (2011) Soil moisture and plant residue addition interact in their effect on extracellular enzyme activity. Pedobiologia 54:71–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gomiero T (2013) Alternative land management strategies and their impact on soil conservation. Agriculture 3(3):464–483CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Grenni P, Rodríguez-Cruz MS, Herrero-Hernández E, Marín-Benito JM, Sánchez-Martín MJ, Barra Caracciolo A (2012) Effects of wood amendments on the degradation of terbuthylazine and on soil microbial community activity in a clay loam soil. Wat Soil Air Poll 223:5401–5412CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Griggs D, Stafford-Smith M, Gaffney O, Rockström J, Ohman MC, Shyamsundar P, Steffen W, Glaser G, Kanie N, Noble I (2013) Policy: sustainable development goals for people and planet. Nature 495(7441):305–307CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gömöryová E, Střelcová K, Fleischer P, Gömöry D (2011) Microbial characteristics at the monitoring plots on windthrow areas of the Tatra National Park Slovakia.: their assessment as environmental indicators. Environ Monit Assess 174:31–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Khan W, Rayirath UP, Subramanian S, Jithesh MN, Rayorath P, Hodges DM, Critchley AT, Craigie JS, Norrie J, Prithiviraj B (2009) Seaweed extracts as biostimulants of plant growth and development. J Plant Growth Regul 28:386–399CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kieft T, Amy P, Brockman F, Fredrickson J, Bjornstad B, Rosacker L (1993) Microbial abundance and activities in relation to water potential in the vadose zones of arid and semiarid sites. Microb Ecol 26:59–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lundquist E, Scow K, Jackson L, Uesugi S, Johnson C (1999) Rapid response of soil microbial communities from conventional, low input, and organic farming systems to a wet/dry cycle. Soil Biol Biochem 31:1661–1675CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. MacKinnon SA, Craft CA, Hiltz D, Ugarte R (2010) Improved methods of analysis for betaines in Ascophyllum nodosum and its commercial seaweed extracts. J Appl Phycol 22:489–494CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Malusá E, Sas-Paszt L, Ciesielska J (2012) Technologies for beneficial microorganisms inocula used as biofertilizers. Sci World J 2012:491206CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Moeskops B, Buchan D, Sleutel S, Herawaty L, Husen E, Saraswati R, Setyorini D, De Neve S (2010) Soil microbial communities and activities under intensive organic and conventional vegetable farming in West Java, Indonesia. Appl Soil Ecol 45:112–120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Muller A, Bautze L, Meier M, Gattinger A, Gall E, Chatzinikolaou E, Meredith S, Ukas T, Ullmann L (2016) Organic farming, climate change mitigation and beyond. IFOAM EU. Available at: Accessed Dec 2018
  31. Munteanu I (1997) Review of soil and terrain data, human-indiced soil degradation and soil vulnerability assessment in Romania. In: BatjesNH, Bridges EM (Eds). Implementation of a soil degradation and vulnerability database for central and Eastern Europe (SOVEUR project). Proceedings of an international workshop Wageningen, 1–3 October 1997. FAO and ISRIC, pp. 69–72. Available at (Accessed April 2018)
  32. Nabti E, Jha B, Hartmann A (2017) Impact of seaweeds on agricultural crop production as biofertilizer. Int J Environ Sci Technol 14:1119–1134CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Nakamura T, Nagayama K, Uchida K, Tanaka R (1996) Antioxidant activity of phlorotannins isolated from the brown alga Eisenia bicyclis. Fish Sci 62:923–926CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Nannipieri P, Grego S, Ceccanti B (1990) Ecological significance of the biological activity in soil. In: Bollag JW, Stotzky G (eds) Soil biochemistry, vol 6. Marcel Dekker Inc, New York, USA, pp 293–355Google Scholar
  35. Nannipieri P, Trasar-Cepeda C, Dick RP (2018) Soil enzyme activity: a brief history and biochemistry as a basis for appropriate interpretations and meta-analysis. Biol Fertil Soils 54:11–19CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Nielsen MN, Winding A (2002) Microorganisms as indicators of soil health. National Environmental Research Institute, Denmark. Technical Report No. 388, 82Google Scholar
  37. Norrie J, Keathley JP (2006) Benets of Ascophyllum nodosum marine-plant extract applications to ‘Thompson seedless’ grape production. Acta Hortic 727:243–248CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Obbard JP (2001) Ecotoxicological assessment of heavy metals in sewage sludge amended soil. Appl Geochem 16:1405–1411CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Onet A, Teusdea A, Boja N, Domuta C, Onet C (2016) Effects of common oak Quercus robur L. defoliation on the soil properties of an oak forest in Western plain of Romania. Annal Forest Res 59(1):33–47Google Scholar
  40. Possinger AR (2013) Using seaweed as a soil amendment: effects on soil quality and yield of sweet corn Zea mays L. Open access master’s theses. Paper 78Google Scholar
  41. Romero E, Fernandez-Bayo J, Diaz J, Nogales R (2010) Enzyme activities and diuron persistence in soil amended with vermicompost derived from spent grape marc and treated with urea. Appl Soil Ecol 44:198–204CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Salazar S, Sanchez L, Alvarez J, Valverde A, Galindo P, Igual J, Peix A, SantaRegina I (2011) Correlation among soil enzyme activities under different forest system management practices. Ecol Eng 37:1123–1131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Schimel JP, Gulledge JM, Clein-Curley JS, Lindstrom JE, Braddock JF (1999) Moisture effects on microbial activity and community structure in decomposing birch litter in the Alaskan taiga. Soil Biol Biochem 31:831–838CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Schloter M, Nannipieri P, Sorensen SJ, Dirk Van Elsas J (2018) Microbial indicators for soil quality. Biol Fertil Soils 54:1–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Schumacher BA (2002) Methods for the determination of total organic carbon toc. in soils and sediments. Ecological Risk Assessment Support Center. US. Environmental Protection Agency pp. 23Google Scholar
  46. Soan BD (2017) The role of organic matter in soil compactibility: a review of some practical aspects. Soil Tillage Res 16:179–201CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Setboonsarng S, Gregorio EE (2017). Achieving sustainable development goals through organic agriculture: empowering poor women. ADB Southeast Asia working paper series no. 15. Available at: Accessed Dec 2018
  48. Stolte J, Tesfai M, Øygarden L, Kværnø S, Keizer J, Verheijen F, Panagos P, Ballabio C, Hessel R (2016) Soil threats in Europe: status, methods, drivers and effects on ecosystem services. A review report, deliverable 2.1 of the RECARE projec EUR 27607 EN. JRC Technical Reports 206 pp. Available at Accessed Sept 2018
  49. Subhani A, Changyong H, Zhengmiao Y, Min L, El-ghamry A (2001) Impact of soil environment and agronomic practices on microbial/dehydrogenase enzyme activity in soil. A review. Pak J Biol Sci 4:333–338CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Tóth G, Stolbovoy V, Montanarella L (2007) Soil quality and sustainability evaluation an integrated approach to support soil-related policies of the European Union – a JRC position paper. European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Institute for Environment and Sustainability. EUR 22721 EN. Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg, 40 pp. Available at Accessed Dec 2018
  51. Tóth G, Hermann T, da Silva MR, Montanarella L (2018) Monitoring soil for sustainable development and land degradation neutrality. Environ Monit Assess 190(2):57CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. United Nations (UN) 2015. Transforming our world: the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. Resolution adopted by the general assembly on 25 September 2015, A/RES/70/1. UN General Assembly: New YorkGoogle Scholar
  53. Trevors JT (1984) Dehydrogenase activity in soil. A comparison between the INT and TTC assay. Soil Biol Biochem 16:673–674CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Van Veen JA, Van Overbeek LS, Van Elsas JD (1997) Fate and activity of microorganisms introduced into soil. Microbiol Mol Biol Rev 61(2):121–135Google Scholar
  55. Vekemans X, Godden B, Penninckx MJ (1989) Factor analysis of the relationships between several physico-chemical and microbiological characteristics of some Belgian agricultural soils. Soil Biol Biochem 21:53–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Visser S, Parkinson D (1992) Soil biological criteria as indicator of soil quality: soil microorganisms. Am J Alternative Agr 7:33–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Wall A, Heiskanen J (2003) Water-retention characteristic and related physical properties of soil on afforested agricultural land in Finland. Forest Ecol Manag 186:21–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Wang T, Jonsdottir R, Ólafsdóttir G (2009) Total phenolic compounds, radical scavenging and metal chelation of extracts from Icelandic seaweeds. Food Chem 116:240–248CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Wilson M, Lindow SE (1993) Release of recombinant microorganisms. Annu Rev Microbiol 47:913–944CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wolińska A, Stępniewska Z (2011) Microorganisms abundance and dehydrogenase activity as a consequence of soil reoxidation process. In: Miransari M (ed) Soil tillage & microbial activities. Research Singpost, Kerala, India, pp 111–143Google Scholar
  61. Wolińska A, Stępniewska Z (2012) Dehydrogenase activity in the soil environment, dehydrogenases. Canuto RA (ed) InTech, Available at: Accessed Dec 2018
  62. Zhang N, He X, Gao Y, Li Y, Wang H, Ma D, Zhang R, Yang S (2010) Pedogenic carbonate and soil dehydrogenase activity in response to soil organic matter in artemisia ordosica community. Pedosphere 20:229–235CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Zogg G, Zak D, Ringelberg D, Macdonald N, Pregitzer K, White D (1997) Compositional and functional shifts in microbial communities due to soil warming. Soil Sci Soc Am J 61:475–481CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Yergeau E, Bell TH, Champagne J, Maynard C, Tardif S, Tremblay J, Greer CW (2015) Transplanting soil microbiomes leads to lasting effects on willow growth, but not on the rhizosphere microbiome. Front Microbiol 6:1436CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Yuan B, Yue D (2012) Soil microbial and enzymatic activities across a chronosequence of Chinese pine plantation development on the loess plateau of China. Pedosphere 221:1–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Zhu CJ, Lee YK (1997) Determination of biomass dry weight of marine microalgae. J Appl Pycol 9:189–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Environmental Protection, RomaniaUniversity of OradeaOradeaRomania
  2. 2.National Institute for Research and Development in Forestry “Marin Dracea”BrasovRomania
  3. 3.Water Research InstituteNational Research CouncilRomeItaly

Personalised recommendations