Journal of Soils and Sediments

, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 1376–1388 | Cite as

Changes in humic fraction characteristics and humus-enzyme complexes formation in semiarid degraded soils restored with fresh and composted urban wastes. A 5-year field experiment

  • Encarnación García Lucas
  • Carlos García Izquierdo
  • Mª Teresa Hernández Fernández
Natural Organic Matter: Chemistry, Function and Fate in the Environment



The aim of this study was to evaluate in the medium term (5 years) the effect of two organic amendments, which were spiked to a degraded soil as a strategy for bioremediation, on the amount and characteristics of soil humic acids (HAs) and their ability to associate with certain extracellular enzymes.

Materials and methods

Soil samples were collected in an experimental field where 5 years earlier, a mixture of the organic fraction of household waste and sewage sludge (2:1 ratio), both composted (composted residue, CR) and non-composted (fresh residue, FR), had been added in triplicate at rates equivalent to 1 % (D1) and 3 % of organic carbon (D2) to 30-m2 plots as a strategy for degraded soil restoration. Humic substances (HSs) and HAs were extracted from the collected soil samples and submitted to chemical, biochemical, spectroscopic (FTIR), and chemical-structural (CPMAS 13C NMR) analyses.

Results and discussion

After 5 years, the amended soils showed significantly higher HS and HA content than did the control soil, and the differences with respect to the control were greater with compost addition than with FR addition. The HA from the amended soils had higher H, N, and S contents than the HA from the non-amended soil in addition to a lower oxygen content and lower O/C ratio values. Furthermore, the FTIR spectra of the HA from the amended soils showed a higher absorption intensity in bands corresponding to aliphatic and amide-carboxylic groups and polysaccharide structures and a lower absorption intensity in bands corresponding to carbonyls and carboxylic groups than the HA from the control. These results were confirmed by 13C-NMR spectra, which showed a clear increase of aliphatic compounds in the HA from the amended soils with respect to the HA from the control. HA spectra were not greatly influenced by the maturity of the amendment or by the application dose.


In general, the addition of organic amendments increased the quantity of enzymes immobilized in the humic colloid. Furthermore, the addition of the composted residues favored to a greater extent the immobilization of the abovementioned enzymes, which represent a biological reservoir in the soil. This is of great importance since these enzymes possess functional capacity even when the soils are under conditions that are stressful or unfavorable for microbial life. An increase in the quantity of immobilized enzymes such as that observed in amended soils supposes an important improvement in soil quality.


CPMAS 13C NMR spectroscopy FT-IR spectroscopy Humic acids Humus-enzyme complexes Organic wastes 



This work has been carried out within the CICYT Projects Ref. CTM 2007-60061, AGL2010-16707, and AGL2014-55269-R funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation. Encarnación García thanks this ministry for her fellowship. The authors also thank the FUNDACIÓN SÉNECA of the Region of Murcia (Spain) for its financial support as “Excellence Research Group” Ref. 19896/GERM/15 Enzymology and Bioremediation of Soils and Organic Wastes.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Basic SciencesPontificia Universidad Católica Madre y MaestraSantiago de los CaballerosDominican Republic
  2. 2.Department of Soil and Water Conservation and Organic Wastes ManagementCentro de Edafología y Biología aplicada del Segura, CEBAS-CSICMurciaSpain

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