Soil Research Soil Research Society
Soil, land care and environmental research
REVIEW

Soil microbial biomass—Interpretation and consideration for soil monitoring

V. Gonzalez-Quiñones A , E. A. Stockdale B , N. C. Banning A , F. C. Hoyle C , Y. Sawada A , A. D. Wherrett A , D. L. Jones D and D. V. Murphy A E
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Soil Biology Group, School of Earth and Environment (M087), UWA Institute of Agriculture, The University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia.

B School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, Agriculture Building, Newcastle University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE1 7RU, UK.

C Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia, 3 Baron-Hay Court, South Perth, WA 6151, Australia.

D Environment Centre Wales, Bangor University, Bangor, Gwynedd, LL57 2UW, UK.

E Corresponding author. Email: daniel.murphy@uwa.edu.au

Soil Research 49(4) 287-304 https://doi.org/10.1071/SR10203
Submitted: 24 September 2010  Accepted: 10 December 2010   Published: 19 May 2011

Abstract

Since 1970, measurement of the soil microbial biomass (SMB) has been widely adopted as a relatively simple means of assessing the impact of environmental and anthropogenic change on soil microorganisms. The SMB is living and dynamic, and its activity is responsible for the regulation of organic matter transformations and associated energy and nutrient cycling in soil. At a gross level, an increase in SMB is considered beneficial, while a decline in SMB may be considered detrimental if this leads to a decline in biological function. However, absolute SMB values are more difficult to interpret. Target or reference values of SMB are needed for soil quality assessments and to allow ameliorative action to be taken at an appropriate time. However, critical values have not yet been successfully identified for SMB. This paper provides a conceptual framework which outlines how SMB values could be interpreted and measured, with examples provided within an Australian context.

Additional keywords: fumigation extraction, soil biology, SMB, soil quality.


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