Summer drought effects upon soil and litter extracellular phenol oxidase activity and soluble carbon release in an upland Calluna heathland
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Extracellular phenol oxidases play an important role in the soil carbon cycle. The effects of a field-scale summer drought manipulation on extracellular litter and soil phenol oxidase activity, soluble phenolic compounds and dissolved organic carbon concentrations were examined for an upland Calluna heathland on a peaty podsol in North Wales. Litter and organic soil phenol oxidase activity was found to be positively correlated with moisture content. Thus in shallow organic soils, which are sensitive to drying during periods of low rainfall, drought may inhibit soil phenol oxidase activity as a result of water limitations. The release of soluble phenolic compounds and DOC from the droughted plots was found to be lowered during the drought period and elevated outside of the drought period. It is hypothesized that these changes may be a result of the reduced ability of extracellular phenol oxidases to process recalcitrant polyphenolic material under drought conditions. A drying incubation carried out with litter and soil cores from the same site suggests that extracellular phenol oxidase activity displays an optimal moisture level. This reconciled the observed water limitation of phenol oxidase activity at the heathland experimental site with previously observed stimulation of phenol oxidase activity by water table drawdown in deeper peats.
Soil Biology & Biochemistry