Variability of Organic Matter Inputs Affects Soil Moisture and Soil Biological Parameters in a European Detritus Manipulation Experiment

István Fekete, Zsolt Kotroczó, Csaba Varga, Rita Hargitai, Kimberly Townsend, Gábor Csányi, Gábor Várbiró

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Over the last three decades, increased temperatures and reduced annual precipitation have resulted in significant changes in several Central European deciduous forests. These effects include changes in soil moisture content and detritus production. Within the framework of a detritus manipulation experiment carried out in an old-growth Quercetum petraea-cerris community, we examined how changes in detritus inputs affect soil moisture content and microbial activity within six treatments. CO2 release and microbial enzyme activities are known to be highly sensitive to environmental factors such as soil moisture and detritus inputs. We applied three detritus removal (No Litter, No Roots and No Input) and two detritus addition (Double Litter and Double Wood) treatments. Although the plots received the same amount of precipitation, the various detritus inputs caused significant differences in soil moisture. Treatments excluding living roots had the highest moisture levels, while the treatment excluding only aboveground detritus inputs had the lowest. CO2 release, arylsulphatase activity and saccharase activity showed significant seasonal differences with the highest values occurring in spring. Moisture content had a significant positive correlation with CO2 release, and enzyme activities of the plots were affected by the quantity and quality of detritus inputs. Arylsulphatase activity showed the strongest correlation with soil moisture content (R = 0. 62 in the control plot) followed by CO2 release (R = 0. 61) and finally saccharase activity (R = 0. 42). We observed that there was a remarkably weaker correlation between soil moisture content and the three parameters in the detritus removal treatments (R values between 0. 56 and 0. 13) than in the Control and detritus addition treatments (R values between 0. 72 and 0. 42). The correlation between the three parameters of interest and soil moisture content weakens considerably under drought conditions relative to the optimal moisture range of soil moisture content for microbial activity. If the amount of precipitation in the area continues to decrease as anticipated, then litter production and soil microbial activity may be reduced.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)792-803
Number of pages12
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • DIRT
  • climate change
  • detritus manipulation
  • enzyme activity
  • oak forest
  • soil moisture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Environmental Chemistry


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