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Assessment of derelict soil quality: Abiotic, biotic and functional approaches

Quentin Vincent, , Thierry Beguiristain,
Published: 1 February 2018

Abstract: The intensification and subsequent closing down of industrial activities during the last century has left behind large surfaces of derelict lands. Derelict soils have low fertility, can be contaminated, and many of them remain unused. However, with the increasing demand of soil surfaces, they might be considered as a resource, for example for non-food biomass production. The study of their physico-chemical properties and of their biodiversity and biological activity may provide indications for their potential re-use. The objective of our study was to investigate the quality of six derelict soils, considering abiotic, biotic, and functional parameters. We studied (i) the soil bacteria, fungi, meso- and macro-fauna and plant communities of six different derelict soils (two from coking plants, one from a settling pond, two constructed ones made from different substrates and remediated soil, and an inert waste storage one), and (ii) their decomposition function based on the decomposer trophic network, enzyme activities, mineralization activity, and organic pollutant degradation. Biodiversity levels in these soils were high, but all biotic parameters, except the mycorrhizal colonization level, discriminated them. Multivariate analysis showed that biotic parameters co-varied more with fertility proxies than with soil contamination parameters. Similarly, functional parameters significantly co-varied with abiotic parameters. Among functional parameters, macro-decomposer proportion, enzyme activity, average mineralization capacity, and microbial polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon degraders were useful to discriminate the soils. We assessed their quality by combining abiotic, biotic, and functional parameters: the compost-amended constructed soil displayed the highest quality, while the settling pond soil and the contaminated constructed soil displayed the lowest. Although differences among the soils were highlighted, this study shows that derelict soils may provide a biodiversity ecosystem service and are functional for decomposition.
Keywords: Biodiversity / Derelict soil / Soil biota / Soil functioning / Soil quality / Technosol

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