- Soil microbial community structure and function of agriculturally used Mollisols in the periurban area around Buenos Aires, Argentina, with emphasis on pesticide and heavy metal contamination (2007)
- Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina is surrounded by an agricultural green belt with fertile Mollisols, which provides the entire supply especially for vegetables of the city. The fast growing population is causing a decrease in the agriculturally available area on the one hand and also a higher demand for food on the other hand. Therefore, an intensification of agriculture and the maintenance of sustainable soil fertility are of essential importance. However, the population is increasingly concerned about an environmental contamination because of an enhanced application of pesticides and heavy metal containing fertilisers in the course of which organic management systems are getting increasing attention. The green belt is agriculturally used in manifold ways. Besides fallows and pastures, organic and conventional cultivations are conducted on open fields and under greenhouses, while also anthropogenically unaffected areas with soils representing a reference for natural soil condition still exist. The objectives of this dissertation were to examine whether inputs of pesticides and heavy metals cause soil pollution and whether the different land use systems lead to an alteration of soil microbial community structure and function. Additionally, it was investigated whether conventional cultivation leads to a soil quality deterioration and if a replacement by organic cultivation can improve this situation. With the aid of a field experiment it was also tested whether land use conversion from a fallow to typical management systems influences soil microbiology, why special emphasis was put on conventional as well as on organic cultivation and pesticide application. Exclusively in top soils of conventionally managed fields pesticides were quantified up to 34.2 µg/kg. The mean heavy metal concentrations did not differ significantly from natural background contents and between the diverse land use systems. A contamination hazard coming from pesticides and heavy metals was regarded as low and consequently, no risk potential for the ecosystems were expected. For the characterisation of the soil microbial community structure and function in soils of the different land use systems twenty phospholipid fatty acids and the following parameters were examined, respectively: enzyme activities (acid phosphatase, arylsulfatase, cellulase, dehydrogenase and urease), basal and substrate-induced respiration, soil microbial biomass, metabolic quotient, net nitrogen mineralisation, net nitrification and potential denitrification. Two principal component analyses were carried out, one for the structural and one for the functional parameters. For the first ones six microbial taxonomic groups were distinguished, while for the latter four principal components (microbial capacity, mineralisation activity, nitrogen transformation potential and metabolic activity) were extracted. With the aid of a subsequent discriminant analysis calculated by the functional data six independent land use groups could be differentiated. Nearly all soils of conventionally managed greenhouses as well as those of organically managed greenhouses and agricultural fields, pastures and the reference were allocated to the expected groups. Only soils of conventionally managed agricultural fields and fallows were combined into one group exhibiting high similarities between these two land use systems. All microbial taxonomic groups showed a reduction in biomass due to agricultural use, while a shift of relative contributions to the total biomass was hardly observable. A differentiation of the land use systems by a discriminant analysis calculated by the structural data was not possible. In the field experiment with the aid of two discriminant analyses calculated by both the data of the structural and the functional parameters it could clearly be distinguished between conventionally and organically managed as well as non-treated and fallow soils. However, a differentiation between soils of the same management with respect to different pesticide applications and varying application amounts was not possible. Finally, correlations between phospholipid fatty acid contents of all analysed microbial taxonomic groups and soil microbial functional parameters were found indicating close connections between soil microbial community structure and function. Hence, the microbial community composition on its own is of no indicator value for soil quality and has to be combined with functional properties. Recapitulatory, it can be concluded that the Mollisols of the green belt around Buenos Aires are not sensitive against intensive agricultural utilisation.