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The impact of salinity on the microbial response to drying and rewetting in soil

  • Kristin M. Rath
  • Arpita Maheshwari
  • Johannes Rousk
Publishing year: 2017-05-01
Language: English
Pages: 17-26
Publication/Series: Soil Biology and Biochemistry
Volume: 108
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Elsevier

Abstract english

In saline soils, the severity of drought for the soil microbial community is exacerbated by accumulating concentrations of salts during drying. In this study we investigated how bacterial growth and respiration responses to drying-rewetting were affected by salinity. To do this, we adjusted a non-saline soil to four different salinities (0, 2, 7 and 22 mg NaCl g−1), followed by addition of plant material and a one-month incubation. Following the incubation period, we assessed the moisture dependence of respiration and growth, as well as the responses of bacterial growth and respiration to a cycle of air-drying followed by rewetting to optimal moisture. The inhibition of bacterial growth and respiration by reducing moisture increased with higher salt concentrations. As such, salinity was shown to increase the negative impact of drying on bacterial growth and alter the bacterial growth and respiration dynamics after rewetting. Drying-rewetting of soils with low salinity resulted in an immediate onset and gradual resuscitation of bacterial growth to levels similar to before drying. In contrast, in soils with higher salinity growth increased exponentially after a lag period of several hours. The duration of the lag period induced by salinity increased with the amount of salt added. The observed lag period matched previously reported results observed in response to more severe drying by e.g. longer duration of drought and drought combined with starvation. In treatments with a salt concentration ≤7 mg NaCl g−1 a high respiration pulse occurred immediately after rewetting and subsequently respiration declined. In the most saline treatment the initial respiration was reduced below the level of continuously moist soil to later increase exponentially in parallel with the increase in bacterial growth. We conclude that soil salinity increases the inhibition of microbial activity by low moisture, that fundamentally different responses to drying-rewetting cycles can be induced, and that high salt concentrations can substantially delay the pulse of respiration induced by rewetting dry soil.


  • Microbiology
  • Geochemistry
  • Ecology
  • Birch effect
  • Extracellular enzymes
  • Saline soils
  • Sodic soils
  • Soil carbon cycle
  • Soil salinization


  • Effect of environmental factors on fungal and bacterial growth in soil
  • Responses of soil microbes to drought and rewetting
  • Microbial carbon-use efficiency
  • Interaction between fungi and bacteria in soil
  • Microbial Ecology
  • ISSN: 0038-0717
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E-mail: johannes [dot] rousk [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

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