Soil microbial biomass carbon, nitrogen and sulphur as affected by different land uses in Seronga, Okavango Delta, Botswana
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Aim: The Okavango Delta at Seronga is fragmented into different land uses ranging from grasslands to woodland (Ximenia and mopane), often punctuated with cropped and fallow fields. The influence of land uses on surface (A1 horizon) soil physico-characteristics, nitrogen, sulphur, carbon, microbial population and biomass were studied to understand soil variability in order to devise conservation strategies for the area. Methodology: Total soil nitrogen (N) was analysed using a Leco N analyser, total carbon and sulphur by CS800 Carbon–Sulphur analyser. NH4+-N, NO3- and NO2- were extracted with KCl and determined using the indophenol blue method and by Griess-Ilosvay colorimetric method respectively. Microbial populations were determined by plate count method. Biomass carbon and flush of nitrogen were determined by fumigation and re- inoculation technique. Results: All the soils had a high sand content (> 85 %). Total soil N was generally very low, 0.017% in grasslands closest to the channel, 0.013% in cropped fields, 0.007% in fallow and lowest in woodlands (0.002%). Grasslands showed higher NH4+-N indicating low nitrification potential. Even if mopane woodlands had low total N, they had higher NH4+-N (0.067 ppm) and low NO2- compared to other land uses, this could be attributed to their inherent nitrification inhibition ability. No NO3--N was detected in these soils, probably due to the low nitrification ability and high leaching capacity of sandy soils. Microbial biomass C and population were highest in the grasslands and cultivated soils, while the woodlands had lower levels. Conclusion: Seronga soils have very low N, with the least in the woodlands furthest from floodplains. Grasslands closest to the channel basin had significantly higher total N, C and microbial biomass C but low S as opposed to the woodlands further from the channel. Cultivated areas had increased N and C levels and microbial biomass C compared to the woodland probably due to incorporation of crop residues and animal manure. The paucity of nitrifiers and undetectable NO3--N indicate a low nitrification potential and a high leaching ability of the soils. Fallowing of fields resulted in a decline in nutrient status.
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