The effect of soil moisture on bacterial growth was investigated, and the effects of rewetting were compared with glucose addition because both treatments increase substrate availability. Bacterial growth was estimated as thymidine and leucine incorporation, and was compared with respiration. Low growth rates were found in air-dried soil, increasing rapidly to high stable values in moist soils. Respiration and bacterial growth at different soil moisture contents were correlated. Rewetting air-dried soil resulted in a linear increase in bacterial growth with time, reaching the levels in moist soil (10 times higher) after about 7 h. Respiration rates increased within 1 h to a level >10 times higher than that in moist soil. After the initial flush, there was a gradual decrease in respiration rate, while bacterial growth increased to levels twice that of moist soil 24 h after rewetting, and decreased to levels similar to those in moist soil after 2 days. Adding glucose resulted in no positive effect on bacterial growth during the first 9 h, despite resulting in more than five times higher respiration. This indicated that the initial increase in bacterial growth after rewetting was not due to increased substrate availability.
Responses of soil microbes to drought and rewetting