Sa, Joao; Goncalves, Daniel; Ferreira, Lucimara; Mishra, Umakant; Inagaki, Thiago; Furlan, Flavia; Moro, Rosemeri; Floriani, Nicolas; Ferreira, Ademir
Soil organic carbon (SOC) is a strong indicator of soil health. Development of efficient soil quality indicators is crucial to better understand the impact of land management strategies on the recovery of degraded ecosystems. We hypothesized that SOC fractions and biological attributes can compose strong soil quality indicators to assess an ecosystem recovery following disturbance. Thus, the objective of this study was to evaluate the use of soil biological activity and SOC fractions to study the impact of different land use systems and ecological successions in ecosystem recovery. We selected six land use systems: tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) cultivation; pastureland; reforested land with Eucalyptus sp.; and natural ecological successions with 10, 20 and 35 years of vegetation regeneration, respectively. We collected disturbed and undisturbed soil samples in triplicate at 0–5, 5–10, 10–20 and 20–40 cm depth intervals. Several fractionation approaches were used to determine SOC pools: hot water extractable organic carbon, permanganate oxidized organic carbon, particulate organic carbon, mineral associated organic carbon and total SOC. The activity of the enzyme arylsulfatase was used to represent soil biological attributes. We calculated three indices to represent the soil quality: carbon management index, soil resilience index and biological activity index. Our results suggest that the SOC fractions and the enzyme activity followed the increase of vegetation complexity of the ecological succession stages. The labile SOC pool, in addition to enzyme activity, was the most sensitive variable to assess land use changes. The biomass-C input was considered to be the main reason of SOC increase, and the gains of labile SOC fractions were directly related to the increase of SOC stocks. Both, biological and carbon management indices were efficient tools to characterize the impact of studied management systems. Also, we found that assessment of deeper soil layers (20–40 cm) was extremely important as incomplete inferences might be reached while evaluating only surface soil layers (0–20 cm). We conclude that the carbon management and biological indices captured the stage of soil degradation and the influence of vegetation diversity in the soil resilience restoration, providing an advance in monitoring strategies that can be reproducible in any environment.