Journal of Soils and Sediments

, Volume 19, Issue 10, pp 3453–3462 | Cite as

Tillage frequency affects microbial metabolic activity and short-term changes in CO2 fluxes within 1 week in karst ecosystems

  • Dan Xiao
  • Yingying Ye
  • Shuangshuang Xiao
  • Wei ZhangEmail author
  • Xunyang He
  • Na Liu
  • Zhihong Xu
  • Kelin WangEmail author
Soils, Sec 1 • Soil Organic Matter Dynamics and Nutrient Cycling • Research Article



Tillage disturbance can significantly affect soil microbial metabolic activity and CO2 fluxes. Nevertheless, the influence of different tillage frequencies on microbial metabolic activity and short-term temporal changes of CO2 fluxes remains unclear.

Materials and methods

We established an in situ experiment with the following treatments: no tillage (T0), semiannual tillage (T1), tillage every 4 months (T2), bimonthly tillage (T3), and monthly tillage (T4). The microbial metabolic activity (Biolog EcoPlate), short-term (hours to days) temporal changes in CO2 fluxes within 1 week, and soil properties were measured after 1 year of treatment.

Results and discussion

The highest CO2 emissions occurred in the first 72 h after tillage treatment and were significantly higher in T3 and T4 than in T0, T1, and T2 within 1 week. Average well color development (AWCD) values reflect microbial metabolic activity and were significantly higher in the tillage treatments (T1, T2, T3, and T4) than under no tillage. There was no significant difference in the Shannon diversity index under all treatments. A higher Simpson diversity index was observed under high tillage frequency in T2, T3, and T4 compared with T0 and T1, while the highest was observed in T2. The highest utilization of carboxylic acids, amino acids, and polymers occurred in T3 and T4 soils, whereas T2 had the highest utilization of carbohydrates, amines, and miscellaneous carbon sources. AWCD values and short-term CO2 fluxes were significantly correlated with annual changes in soil organic carbon (△SOC), annual changes in dissolved organic carbon (△DOC), microbial biomass carbon (MBC), and large macroaggregates (> 1 mm).


These results suggest that frequent tillage disturbance increases microbial metabolic activity, which can stimulate short-term CO2 emissions through changes in soil aggregates, SOC, DOC, and MBC.


Karst ecosystems Microbial catabolic activity Short-term CO2 fluxes Tillage frequency 


Funding information

This study was supported by the National Key Research and Development Program (2016YFC0502400), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31670529; 31870502; 31870503), the Youth Innovation Team Project of ISA, Chinese Academy of Sciences (2017QNCXTD_ZJ), the Youth Innovation Promotion Association, Chinese Academy of Sciences program (2015303), and Hebei Science and Technology Plan Project (15457631D).

Supplementary material

11368_2019_2396_MOESM1_ESM.docx (2.1 mb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 2200 kb)


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Copyright information

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

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dan Xiao
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Yingying Ye
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Shuangshuang Xiao
    • 4
  • Wei Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Xunyang He
    • 1
    • 2
  • Na Liu
    • 5
  • Zhihong Xu
    • 6
  • Kelin Wang
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Agro-ecological Processes in Subtropical Region, Institute of Subtropical AgricultureChinese Academy of SciencesChangshaChina
  2. 2.Huanjiang Observation and Research Station for Karst EcosystemsChinese Academy of SciencesHuanjiangChina
  3. 3.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  4. 4.Key Laboratory of Environment Change and Resources Use in Beibu GulfGuangxi Teachers Education UniversityNanningChina
  5. 5.School of BusinessHebei GEO University|ShijiazhuangChina
  6. 6.Environmental Futures Research Institute, School of Environment and ScienceGriffith UniversityBrisbaneAustralia

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