Resilience of soil functions to transient and persistent stresses is improved more by residue incorporation than the activity of earthworms

Xin Shu* (Corresponding Author), Paul D. Hallett, Manqiang Liu, Elizabeth M. Baggs, Feng Hu, Bryan S. Griffiths

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


The development of soil sustainability is linked to the improved management of soil biota, such as earthworms, and crop residues to improve soil physical structure, enhance microbial activities, and increase nutrient cycling. This study examined the impacts of maize residue (65.8C/N ratio, dry biomass 0.75 kg m −2 ) incorporation and earthworms (70 g Metaphire guillelmi m −2 ) on the resistance and resilience of soil C and N cycling to experimentally applied stresses. Field treatments were maize residue incorporation, maize residue incorporation with earthworm addition, and an unamended control. Resistance and resilience of C mineralization, ammonia oxidation, and potential denitrification were investigated over 28 days following a persistent stress of Cu (1 mg Cu soil g −1 ) or a transient heat stress (50 °C for 16 h). The results indicated that C mineralization was more resistant and resilient than ammonia oxidation and denitrification to either a persistent Cu or a transient heat stress. The application of maize residues significantly increased soil microbial biomass, C mineralization, ammonia oxidation and potential denitrification compared with the unamended control. Maize residues significantly improved the resistance and resilience of N processes to Cu and heat stress. The presence of earthworms significantly increased potential denitrification but had limited positive effect on functional resistance and resilience. This study suggested crop residue incorporation would strongly increase soil functional resistance and resilience to persistent and transient stresses, and thus could be a useful agricultural practice to improve soil ecosystem sustainability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10-14
Number of pages5
JournalApplied Soil Ecology
Early online date18 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2019

Bibliographical note

This work was supported by the Scottish Government's Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services Division (Theme 1 project 1.1.2), the National Key R&D program (2016YFD0200305), and the Natural Science Foundation of China (41771287 and 41671255). We thank Shuai Wang, John Parker and Yufeng Deng for their help with field and laboratory work.


  • Ammonia oxidation
  • C mineralization
  • Crop residue
  • Denitrification
  • Soil fauna


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