Effects of Mercury on Microbial Biomass and Enzyme Activities in Soil

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Mercury (Hg) is a persistent soil pollutant that affects soil microbial activity. We monitored the changes in soil microbial biomass and activity of enzymes, including alkaline phosphatase, arylsulfatase, fluorescein diacetate (FDA) hydrolytic activity, and o-diphenol oxidase (o-DPO) in three soils contaminated with different concentrations of Hg. Increasing levels of Hg, from 0.5 to 10 μmol/g of dried soil, generally depressed microbial activity; however, the effects of Hg on soil microbial activity depended on soil type and composition, particularly organic matter content. O- DPO was less affected by Hg than the other three enzymes tested. Our results indicate that the analysis of microbial biomass content and soil–enzyme activities may be used to predict the soil quality contaminated with Hg.

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