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ELSEVIER Geoderma 63 (1994) 277-288

Formation of stable aggregates in degraded soil by amendment with urban refuse and peat
E. Diaz, A. Roldfin, A. Lax, J. Albaladejo
CEBAS-CSIC, Apdo. 4195, 30080Murcia, Spain

Received January 13, 1993; accepted after revision October 10, 1993

Abstract
Soil structure has been destroyed over large areas of arid and semi-arid regions by soil degradation processes. This study was conducted to investigate the effects of two organic amendments, urban refuse and peat, on the improvement of soil structure and to analyse correlations between organic carbon content, fungal and bacteria populations and aggregate stability. Two series of five plots were established in the southeast of Spain, in typical Mediterranean semi-arid to arid conditions. To one series different initial doses of urban refuse (0, 6.5, 13, 19.5 and 26 kg m -2) were added, whereas to the other series different doses of peat (0, 10, 20, 30 and 40 kg m-2) were added. The average percentage of stable aggregates showed a significant increase (31.6, 41.1,53.7, 63.2%) with increased levels of urban refuse with respect to the control. On the other hand, peat was not effective in improving stable aggregates. The beneficial effect which appeared with urban refuse remained in the soil two years after application, probably due to the growth of natural vegetal cover in the treated plots. A marked increase in fungal and bacterial populations and a decrease in extractable organic carbon was observed in the plots into which urban refuse was incorporated. This, together with the high correlation coefficients between the percentage of stable aggregates and the microbial population, suggested that the combined action of polysaccharides from the urban refuse and the increase in microbiological activity was responsible for the initial formation of soil aggregates.

1. Introduction
In many arid and semi-arid regions of the Mediterranean area, soil degradation has caused a decline in soil productivity. This degradation is irreversible without human intervention to improve soil quality and productivity. Only after such intervention can a suitable vegetal cover be established. Regeneration of the physical properties o f these soils is a precondition for the control of desertification and the rehabilitation of the areas affected (Albaladejo and Dfaz, 1990). 0016-7061/94/$07.00 © 1994 Elsevier Science Publishers B.V. All rights reserved SSD10016-7061(93) E0102-2

Bastian and Ryan. However. Reinersten et al. Metzger et al. Among these materials. Although there is widespread agreement in relation to the overall importance of organic matter.. The soil in the experimental area is a Xeric Torriorthent (Soil Survey Staff. . low shrubs with only 2 to 4% canopy cover. fungal and bacterial populations and the percentage of stable aggregates.. 1987. Lynch and Bragg. 1986. 1987). Many studies. Its use has been experimented with principally in relation to agricultural production (Metzger and Yaron. we studied the effects of two very different organic materials. bacteria and fungi play an important role.2°C. We also examined the correlations between different organic fractions. Stipa. both in the field and the laboratory have pointed to the important role of organic matter in the formation and stabilization of soil aggregates (Pagliai et al. 1992). 1987). Bartoli et al. / Geoderma 63 (1994) 277-288 A widely used method to improve the physical properties of a soil is the addition of materials with a high content of easily decomposable organic carbon (Guidi. 1985). 1987.. These climatic conditions lead to a potential annual evapotranspiration of about 1000 mm and a pronounced moisture deficit. solid urban refuse and peat. 1989) and has been shown to promote the development of chemical and physico-chemical reactions and microbiological processes which lead to an improvement in soil quality and an increase in productive capacity (Metzger and Yaron. The most abundant species are Rosmarinus. 1981. Material and methods Experiments were carried out in southeastern Spain in typical Mediterranean semi-arid to arid conditions with an average annual rainfall of 300 mm and average annual temperature of 19. Among the different groups of soil microorganisms. The climatic indices of Emberger ( 1941 ) and Thornthwaite (1948) are between semi-arid and arid.. many authors suggest that it is the polysaccharides which play the most important part in improving soil structure (Cegarra et al. on the structure of a degraded soil in Mediterranean semi-arid conditions. In this paper. 1982. (1987) showed that the microbial population which develops after addition of the wastes is initially responsible for aggregate formation and stabilization. The microorganisms participate mechanically (union by hyphae) in soil aggregation or by the excretion of polysaccharides into the medium (Tisdall and Oades.. The natural vegetation of the area is mainly slow-growing.. Arshad and Schnitzer. Elliot and Papendick. 1984). 2. Khaleel et al. t986. there is less agreement as regards the most effective individual components. Glaub and Golueke. algae (including cyanobacteria). municipal refuse offers a series of advantages that range from its low cost and widespread availability. 1975). the microbiological origin of this improvement in the physical properties of a soil has been shown by several authors (Lynch. and Rao and Burns (1990) point to the importance of polysaccharides excreted by algae. to the environmental benefits involved in its disposal. Metzger et al. although in areas with a pronounced water deficit bacteria and fungi are the predominant groups of soil microflora and thus the principal stimulators in soil aggregation. Dfaz et al. Isichei (1990). 1981.278 E. 1986. Helianthemum and Anthyllis. Sauerbeck. 1989.. 1981. On the other hand. Parr et al. 1987). 1981.

10. Experimental design Two series of five plots each were established in the experimental area on a hillside with 10% slope. middle and lower part were analyzed in triplicate for percentage of stable aggregates. with only an ochric epipedon as diagnostic horizon. Both urban refuse and peat were incorporated into the top 30 cm of soil by means of a rotovator. an average of the three samples was taken for the correlation study. extractable organic carbon and fulvic acids. now abandoned. The soil type and vegetal cover were similar in all the plots. 12 months and 24 months after the addition of urban refuse. pH 6. 13. The three samples from each part were carefully mixed and the representative samples of the upper.5. The Netherlands) for taking undisturbed soil samples. 65. 20. without watering. I. 1990).5. Its composition was: 45% water.2% water. three samples were collected from the upper part of the plot. / Geoderma63 (1994) 277-288 279 formed from marls. organic carbon.44 cmol kg. An aliquot of 4 g from the sieved soil was placed . Only one addition was made at the beginning of the experiment. June and October of each year. The peat used was derived from marshy vegetation (mainly sedge). The polysaccharide content. which took place in totally natural conditions. 6. organic carbon. 33. It had the following characteristics: 48. Raindrop impact and runoff cause a laminar surface structure which further decreases infiltration and increases erosion rates (Albaladejo. The urban refuse added was uncomposted with a natural maturation of 10-15 days. 5 mg kg. 2% fine sand and 5.2 and 4 mm.E. Sampling for structural stability was carried out in March. The levels of addition of urban refuse and peat were calculated so that the increases in extractable carbon were similar with both treatments.5% silt. The most significant properties of the A horizon are the following: 0.42 S m -l. positioned along slope (up--down slope). The experiment involving peat began one year after the urban refuse treatment and was continued for one year. The following analytical methods were used: Percentage o f stable aggregates.8% coarse sand.7% ash. 19. Eijkelkamp.2.2% ash.4% organic carbon. and the electrical conductivity (in aqueous extract 1:2) was 0. and 26 kg m --2. Soil samples were sieved in the laboratory between meshes with openings of 0.037% total nitrogen. The soil degradation rate is very high because of the lack of vegetal cover and the nature of the parent material.5. three from the middle part and three from the lower part. Soil samples were taken using a set of sample rings kits (50 mm diameter.~available phosphorous. 0. had previously been used for agricultural purposes. The soil profile consists of A and C horizons. 26. largely humified. 23%. polysaccharides expressed as glucose 3% (all data. Dfaz et al. The size of the plots was 1 m × 10 m.7% clay. 30 and 40 kg m . Peat was added to a separate group of plots at rates of 0.1 available potassium. expressed as glucose. a within plot sampling design was deemed to be preferable to using treatment replicates. For each sampling period. Urban refuse was added to one group of plots at rates of 0. 2.8%. Thus. 0. As no significant differences were observed within the plots. the soil surface is periodically removed by soil erosion. 40. 35. Sampling for extractable organic carbon and fulvic acids were carried out 10 days. refer to dry weight). The clay fraction is mainly composed of a montmorillonite-vermiculite interstratified mineral. The land. Because of the uniformity and large size of the plots. was 13%.

01% Triton X-100) was added to these fixed samples. After extraction with 0. it was passed through the same 0.5M and colorimetric determination with ammonic phosphomolybdate complex. Analytical methods used in soil or refuse characterization: Total nitrogen. The samples were carefully mixed in the laboratory and two 1 g aliquots were taken and fixed with 10 cm 3 of distilled water and 4% formaldehyde. An aliquot of the extract was treated with H2SO 4 at pH 2 and the organic carbon expressed as fulvic acid carbon was determined in the supernatant. Pretreatment with HCI 1:10 to eliminate carbonates (Navarro et al.250 mm sieve with the assistance of a small stick that was used to break the remaining aggregates for differentiating soil aggregates from sand particles. Each measurement represents the average of the total length of hyphae in 25 fields of view. 1 ml was mixed with an equal volume of liquid agar ( 1. the organic carbon was measured in the extract in a liquid sample carbon analyzer. (1983). Granulometric analysis.P 2 . / Geoderma63 (1994)277-288 on a small 0. Total polysaccharides. Sieving for coarse and fine sand. Fungi.2.250 mm sieve and subjected to an artificial rainfall of 150 ml with an energy of 270 J m -2.2/~m mesh . 1N at pH 7. Total organic carbon. The total mycelium length was measured by direct observation of agar-soil films under phase contrast microscopy according to the techniques described by Jones and Mollison (1948) and Visser et al. followed by combustion at 1020°C. Dfaz et al. after pretreatment with H202 6%. This mixture was placed in an excavated slide of known volume and examined under the microscope after solidification. 2. This was determined by combustion at 1020°C in a carbon and nitrogen analyser and reduction. Colour development was measured with anthrone and spectrophotometry at 625 nm (Brink et al. The remaining soil on the sieve was dried at 105°C and weighed (P1). Extraction with HCO3Na 0. Quintuplicate 100 g soil cores were randomly taken from each plot along a longitudinal transect for counts of total bacteria and measurement of the total length of fungal mycelia. The soil was then wetted and after 2 hours. 1960). This method was based on the work of Benito et al. After gentle shaking of the fixed sample. and sedimentation (Stokes' Law) for clay.5% Oxoid agar). separation of N2 in chromatographic column and measurement in a thermic conductivity detector. The total number of bacteria was estimated by observation with epi-fluorescence and staining with acridine orange on polycarbonate filters (millipore) of 0. The percentage of stable aggregates with regard to the total aggregates was calculated by (P1 .280 E. Hydrolysis in concentrated sulphuric acid and digestion after dilution with water. Available phosphorus. and determination of potassium by flame photometry.1M sodium pyrophosphate at pH 9. The particles on the sieve were dried at 105°C and weighed (P2). X-ray diffraction. Bacteria. Clay mineralogy. Extraction with ammonium acetate.. 1991 ). A non-ionic detergent (0. Available potassium. Extractable organic carbon andfulvic acids.8..P 2 ) × 1 0 0 / 4 . separation of CO2 in a chromatograph column and determination by an automatic nitrogen and carbon analyzer. (1986) with some modifications. Measurement of bacterial and fungal populations Sampling.

I. 1990). both for bacteria and fungi. At the same time. One milliliter of the solution was filtered through a 0.5 kg m -z although not at higher doses. Results and discussion 3. Evolution o f the edaphic microflora The data corresponding to microbial population counts are shown in Table 1.3 ml acridine orange solution (0. In the case of bacterial populations.2/zm mesh polycarbonate millipore membrane and after filtration 0.1% Merck) was added. did not result in the maintenance of a stable . The suspension was decanted for 20 minutes and the supernatant ( 1:10 dilution of the original sample) was diluted 1:100 and 1:1000.E. Differences. rapidly growing microorganisms were being substituted by others with lesser nutritive requirements and a slower metabolism. Water availability is a regulatory and limiting factor in microbial growth (Kushner. After addition of urban refuse. whose root exudates can maintain a microbial population. This increase generally matches increases in the waste added for rates ~<19. There is a notable increase in the total number of bacteria and mycelium length with respect to the control in the urban refuse treated plots. although occasionally greater dilutions were necessary. It is clear that a general activation of soil microorganisms takes place after the initial improvement provided by the addition of organic material. 1977). Samples were stained for 45 seconds and any excess of the colouring agent was eliminated by adding 0. 1990) and the fixing of nitrogen (Forster. the decrease is much less pronounced and may be attributed to their evolution. 3. The fixed samples were shaken for 30 minutes and were then homogenezed by sonication (3 series of 60 seconds 0. A completely random experimental design was established. on the other hand.. Statistical analysis. Diaz et al. To determine the level of significance of the effects of addition of urban refuse and peat on soil structure the Tukey's test was used with all the replicated data from every sampling. have a tendency to be more pronounced between the control and the smallest addition than between different doses. Acea and Carballas. Each measurement of the total number of bacteria corresponds to a count of 25 fields of view in two replicates. as soil structure improves so does the availability of water because of an increase of water infiltration rate (Albaladejo and Dfaz.5 ml isopropylic alcohol for 5 seconds. 1980). For the correlations between the percentage of stable aggregates. The decrease in bacterial and fungal counts observed with time can be attributed to a readjustment in the populations and to the consumption of the energy source added. organic carbon and microbial population levels the nonparametric method of Spearman's rank correlation coefficients was used. two years after the addition of the wastes. 1990). a dense covering of pioneering vegetation is soon established in the experimental plots (Albaladejo and Dfaz. The fact that the level of these populations remains higher than those of the control even after the partial consumption of the added waste cannot be simply explained by the incorporation of an energy source since the real causes are varied and interdependent. / Geoderma 63 (1994) 277-288 281 (Hobbie et al. The addition of peat. populations higher than those of the control plot can be observed. perhaps opportunistic. This fall is more noticeable in the case of fungi but even here.75 output separated by 30 seconds rest periods in ice). 1980.

07 0. Diaz et al.8 34.8 x 5. fulvic acids.8 114.5 13 19. 88 0 6.14 0.7 1.40 0.5 26 0 6.4 205.9 X 109 1.1 X 107 5.3 X 10 9 3.27 2.74 0.46 0.44 Oct.6 322.09 0.55 0.2 x 2.2 X 108 7.51 0.45 0.7 29. / Geoderma 63 (1994) 277-288 Table 1 Bacteria.27 0.8x 109 2. 17 o.83 4.282 E.4× 108 4.06 0.8 3.10 o. 12 o.4x 4.12 0.07 0.7 0. fungal populations.36 0.2 71. 90 microbial population.53 0.08 0.6 1.6X 109 5.49 0.33 1.4 1.38 0.5 26 9.41 1.02 1. A c o m p a r i s o n o f microbial numbers one year after the addition o f peat and urban refuse reveals that they are higher in the latter.36 0.97 4.93 2.6 24.52 0.24 0.0 1.4 x 107 107 107 107 107 0.1 0. The first samples were taken 30 days after the addition o f urban refuse and s h o w an increase in total organic carbon and fulvic acid content.2.2 206.99 1. In the peat treated plots s o m e o f the apparent increases in .54 0.5 x 108 1.06 0.38 0.61 0.36 0.40 0.57 0.1 X 10 9 3.5 13 19.57 0.7 315.51 0.2 132.36 0.63 1.3 17.42 0.1 × 107 108 108 108 108 2.0× 2.59 2.8 X l06 8. 90 Peat Oct.37 0.4 2.8 x 5.43 0. The data refer to the first two years o f the f o r m e r and the first y e a r only o f the latter.56 0. organic carbon and extractable carbon at the different sampling times Sampling date Rate (kg m -2) Bacteria (No.75 5. 17 0. 89 Oct. 89 0 10 20 30 40 0 10 20 30 40 3.4x 5.07 0.76 1.63 5. which is less than m i g h t have been e x p e c t e d according to the respective amounts o f urban refuse added.) Fungi (m g-t) Fulvic acids (%) Organic carbon (%) Extractable carbon (%) Urban refuse Oct.58 1. 3.00 1.11 0.57 0.46 0.46 0.48 Oct.39 0.2 128.45 0. Evolution o f the organic carbon fractions Table 1 s h o w s the e v o l u t i o n o f the total and extractable organic carbon content along with the fulvic acids after the addition o f urban refuse and peat.9× 2.5 13 19.86 1.5 26 0 6.1 × 7.60 0.

1977). which contributed substantial quantities of organic carbon to the soil. Dfazet al. This indicated that there were important improvements in the soil structure after the addition of urban refuse. then. Morel and Guckert. The fulvic acid carbon fraction showed a logical gradation according to the level added at the first sampling and had practically disappeared by the end of the year. depends on environmental conditions although in general it lasts a short time (Morel and Jacquin. the increase in the percentage of stable aggregates was considerably less than with urban refuse. This pattern of soluble organic carbon diminution during the first days following the addition of urban refuse agrees with the results in the literature for a fresh waste with a high proportion of easily mineralizable carbon (Metzger and Yaron. that in the 30 days following application there is a considerable decrease in the organic carbon content. The duration of the initial step. the percentage of stable aggregates in the urban refuse treated plots significantly increased with the level of urban refuse added for every sampling date with respect to the control. Statistically only the rate of 40 kg m . and the effect was evident only at the higher doses. slower than the first. It must be assumed. As regards the evolution in time of the different fractions. both for their direct action as linking agents and for their promoting the intensification of microbiological activity. it can be concluded that the addition of urban refuse produces a significant increase in the percentage of stable aggregates and that this . Similar results were obtained by other authors in different types of soil and climatic conditions (Morel et al. Guidi.E. where the amount of polysaccharides was very low. In the peat treated plots. mainly in extractable carbon which is almost completely mineralized. 3. on the other hand. Two or three distinct steps characterize this pattern of behaviour. probably because of the spontaneous process of vegetal covering which took place and the development of the corresponding rhizosphere. an appreciable increase in total organic carbon content was noted in urban refuse treated plots during the last step. 1977). this carbon content decreased since no vegetation developed. in which the easily available substrates are used by the microorganisms. In the peat treated plots the presence of fulvic acids was considerably less than in the urban refuse treated plots. 1983) and in laboratory studies (Morel and Jacquin. In the plots that were peat treated. The increase in extractable carbon was even smaller.05). 1983. the soil microbiology was only very slightly reactivated in these plots with the highest doses. 1981.. and the improvement was greater when larger amounts of refuse were added. Borchert. / Geoderma63 (1994)277-288 283 organic carbon exceed the amount of carbon added. From the results of the analysis of variance. The rapid decrease of the high polysaccharide content in the urban refuse extractable carbon seems to confirm the important role of these compounds in the initial formation of aggregates.2 could be differentiated from the control plot for every sampling date (Table 2). 197 8. As regards the plots treated with peat. The mineralization of these compounds during the evolution of the added organic carbon corresponded to a second step. Statistical analysis indicated that significant differences occurred between the plots (p < 0. Effect of the addition of urban refuse and peat in soil structure modification As shown in Table 2. this must be due to the spatial variability of the initial organic carbon and the imperfection of mixing peat with soil.3. 1987).

(1978).5 13 19. 89 Mar. i. the correlations between fungal and bacterial populations and stable aggregates are very significant (p < 0. improvement is a function of the dose of refuse added. However. These results are very similar to those of Metzger et al. 89 Oct. 90 Oct. values followed by different lower case letters are significantlydiffer (p ~<0. who established very significant correlations between the percentage of stable aggregates and total organic matter in several types of soil. who proved that microbiological activity is responsible for the first steps of soil aggregate formation after the addition of an organic waste to soil.. are shown in Table 3. 90 Jan. while in our experiment we used two very different sources.284 E. and from those of Subbiah and Ramulu (1979) and Morel et al. on the other hand. /Geoderma 63 (1994)277-288 Table 2 Percentage of stable aggregates in the urban refuse and peat treated plots.4. it must be kept in mind that the above authors only used one type of organic matter. The significance levels of the correlations established in our experiment as a whole. Rate (kg m-2) Samplingdate Oct. . On the other hand. Correlations between the percentage of stable aggregates and organic carbon and microbial population levels There are divergent results in the literature concerning the relative importance of total organic matter with its different fractions and microbiological activity in the stabilization of soil aggregates. (1987). However.5 26 50a A 62b AB 69c BCD 79d C 77d AB 47a A 69bc 71bc CD 78bc BC 82c BC 45a A 63b AB 68c BC 73c B 78d AB 52a A 57b A 63c A 66c A 72d A 46a A 67b BC 72c D 79d C 84d C 51a A 67b AB 68b BC 67b B 75e AB 48a A 61b AB 67c AB 79d BC 85e C Peat 0 10 20 30 40 46a BC 47a B 44a B 57b B 57b AB 39a A 49a B 35a A 48b A 52c A 43b AB 38a A 39a A 46b A 50c AC 47a C 46a B 50ab C 55b B 54b A For each sampling data and treatment. It can be seen that there is no significant correlation between total and extractable organic carbon levels in the soil and the percentage of stable aggregates.05) as determinedby Tukey's test. 3. For each plot and treatment. 88 Mar.01 ). they differ from those of Chaney and Swift (1984). D(azet al. 90 Urban refuse 0 6. The addition of peat.05) as determinedby Tukey's test. is much less effective in the improvement of soil structure and significant differences cannot be established between the different doses. considering both urban refuse and peat treatments. 89 Jun. Valuesare meanof three replicates. values followedby differentcapital letters are significantlydifferent (p ~<0.e.

0. This has been mentioned in many studies.S. (1990) found high correlation coefficients between the hydrophobic aliphatic fraction. Capriel et al. the high degree of correlation between microbial populations and the percentage of stable aggregates. as can be seen from Table 2. Maintenance o f structural improvement Extractable carbon 0.. in which the percentage of .2443 N. 3. 1983.0872 N.8571 0. most of these aggregates were broken. 0. 1973. suggest that the most effective organic fractions in the first stages of new aggregate formation are those capable of producing a strong reactivation of the soil microflora.S. A comparison of the two materials used in our experiment shows the clear difference in polysaccharide content ( 13% in urban refuse and 3% in peat) and we think that this fraction is the most important in the initial stages of structural improvement. although there is no agreement as to the relative importance of the different constituents of the organic matter in aggregate formation and stabilization. Positive correlations between soil structural stability and polysaccharide content have been reported in several publications (Guckert.S.1 probabilitylevel.5. microbial biomass and aggregate stability and suggest that there is a strong relationship between the physics and biochemistry of a soil. . 1984. Oades. 0. 1987). This view is supported by the results of our experiment.1471 N.S.7571 *** - Bacteria 0. / Geoderma 63 (1994) 277-288 285 Table 3 Rank correlationcoefficients (Spearman) and significancelevel Organic carbon Stable aggregates Organic carbon Extractablecarbon Bacteria ***Significanceat the 0.1880 N. because of its double action as a cementation agent and as a food source for stimulating microbial activity. 0.3863 * - Fungi 0.01 probabilitylevel.E. Metzger et al. After rigorous shaking and hydrolysis with HC1. which suggests that polysaccharide molecules are involved in this aggregation.7964 *** 0. is not significant. - The improvement noted in the structural stability of the soil remained during the two years that the experiment lasted. N. In the environmental conditions of this experiment.7625 *** 0. The results show the great importance of the composition of the organic matter to be incorporated.3010 N.. The direct physical action of the bacteria and fungi in linking particles has been verified by observation of microaggregates with epifluorescence microscopy.S. *Significanceat the 0.S. Dfaz et al. although the finest particles continued to be held together on the hyphae and among bacteria. Chesire et al.

The duration of the effect in the urban refuse treated plots was probably due to the increase in organic matter content during the two years of the experiment as a consequence of vegetal covering. that in the formation of aggregates. This seems to indicate that in the first steps of aggregate formation the microbiological activity and the polysaccharides play the most important role (Martens and Frankenberger. with the subsequent biodegradation of a large part of the added extractable carbon. On the other hand. / Geoderma 63 (1994) 277-288 stable aggregates is shown for every sampling date. as determined by the simulated rain method. the microbial population decreased and aggregate stability remained stable. should decrease soil erodibility. The increase in the percentage of stable aggregates. as opposed to the control plot with 4% cover. there is a sharp increase in microbiological activity. Dfaz et al. The mechanism inferred is the following: after the addition of a urban refuse with a high polysaccharide content. together with the polysaccharides (both those added with the waste. We .2.286 E. microbial populations are directly involved. Conclusion The addition of urban refuse with high polysaccharide content was very effective in improving soil structural stability. peat had little positive effect on structural improvement. 4.5 and 13 kg m -2. The high correlation coefficients between the microbial populations and the percentage of stable aggregates suggest that microbiological activity is very significant during the first stage of aggregate formation. 92% for rates of 19. and the growth of microbial population is initially responsible for the formation of new aggregates. This shows that only one application of urban refuse is sufficient to regenerate degraded soils (USDA. The maintenance of the structural improvement and the revegetation of the site confirm that one sole application of waste is sufficient for the recuperation of the degraded soil studied. The results show that there were no significant differences among the sampling dates. which is of great interest for the control of erosion in semi-arid areas and for the implementation of vegetal cover restoration programmes. and those excreted by the microorganism). 1992). It seems clear. then. which suggests the structural improvement stabilized during the two years. 1978).5 kg m . The percentage of cover reached 98% for a rate of 26 kg m -2. as was observed by microscopic examination. microbial population and aggregate stability showed that the organic carbon increased. Acknowledgements This research was financially supported by ICONA (Spanish Nature Conservation Institute) in collaboration with CSIC in the LUCDEME programme (Project 88JW855A). In a continuation of this experiment. we are trying to evaluate the mechanisms of the aggregate stabilization phase by studying the evolution of the organic carbon incorporated in the soil and by analysing the clay-humic complex. An analysis of the data referring to the evolution of total organic carbon. and 65% for a rate of 6.

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