Biology and Fertility of Soils

, Volume 54, Issue 4, pp 509–521 | Cite as

Plant roots and species moderate the salinity effect on microbial respiration, biomass, and enzyme activities in a sandy clay soil

  • Mozhgan Boyrahmadi
  • Fayez Raiesi
Original Paper


The aim of this study was to determine the effects of plant absence or presence on microbial properties and enzyme activities at different levels of salinity in a sandy clay soil. The treatments involved five salinity levels—0.5 (control), 2.5, 5, 7.5, and 10 dS m−1 which were prepared using a mixture of chloride salts—and three soil environments (unplanted soil, and soils planted with either wheat or clover) under greenhouse conditions. Each treatment was replicated three times. At the end of the experiment, soil microbial respiration, substrate-induced respiration (SIR), microbial biomass C (MBC), and enzyme activities were determined after plant harvest. Increasing salinity decreased soil microbial properties and enzyme activities, but increased the metabolic quotient (qCO2) in both unplanted and planted soils. Most microbial properties of planted soils were greater than those of unplanted soils at low to moderate salinity levels, depending upon plant species. There was a small or no difference in soil properties between the unplanted and planted treatments at the highest salinity level, indicating that the indirect effects of plant presence might be less important due to significant reduction of plant growth. The lowered microbial activity and biomass, and enzyme activities were due to the reduction of root activity and biomass in salinized soils. The lower values of qCO2 in planted than unplanted soils support the positive influence of plant root and its exudates on soil microbial activity and biomass in saline soils. Nonetheless, the role of plants in alleviating salinity influence on soil microbial activities decreases at high salinity levels and depends on plant type. In conclusion, cultivation and growing plant in abandoned saline environments with moderate salinity would improve soil microbial properties and functions by reducing salinity effect, in particular planting moderately tolerant crops. This helps to maintain or increase the fertility and quality of abandoned saline soils in arid regions.


Enzyme activity Microbial indicators Root effects Plant type Salinity stress 



The authors express their thanks to Shahrekord University for the financial support of the study reported in this paper. They also thank the Editor-in-Chief and three anonymous reviewers for their valuable and critical comments on an earlier draft of the manuscript.

Supplementary material

374_2018_1277_MOESM1_ESM.doc (152 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 152 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Soil Science and Engineering, Faculty of AgricultureShahrekord UniversityShahrekordIran

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