The role of soil biotic processes in the search of quantitative indexes of soil quality
Monitoring soil quality involves measurements of soil properties over periods of several years. This article examines the potential role of chemical SOM composition and of soil biotic processes as faster indexes of soil quality. Soil quality was quantified on the basis of individual soil attributes and time. Chemical characterization of soil organic matter by solid 13C-NMR and Py-FIMS showed that a degraded Gleysol cropped to corn during 25 years suffered C losses from all chemical functional groups. Surprisingly, aromatic-C was lost at proportional higher rates than aliphatic-C. These results indicate that chemical composition of SOM determined by quantitative nondestructive methods can be used as quality indexes in agricultural soils. Biotic processes reflect changes in soil quality over shorter periods than total or type of SOM. Microbial specific respiration (qCO2) is a soil attribute that consistently reflected differences in soil quality. It was hypothesized that qCO2 , the microbial adenylate energy charge and anabolic reduction charge may permit to asses soil quality over monitoring periods of weeks to <5y.
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