Microbial biomass and enzymatic responses to temperate oak and larch forest thinning: Influential factors for the site-specific changes

Seongjun Kim, Guanlin Li, Seung Hyun Han, Choonsig Kim, Sang Tae Lee, Yowhan Son

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Microbial biomass and enzyme activity are essential for ecosystem function in managed forests; however, uncertainty remains because microbial biomass and enzymatic responses to thinning highly differ with case studies. This study addressed the drivers for the site-specific responses of microbial biomass and enzyme activity to thinning. Study sites included two oak and three larch forests; each had un-thinned control, intermediate thinning (15–23% basal area reduction), and heavy thinning treatments (30–44% basal area reduction). Soil properties (temperature, water content, pH, total and inorganic nitrogen, and total carbon/nitrogen ratio), microbial biomass, enzyme (β-glucosidase, N-acetylglucosaminidase, leucyl aminopeptidase, acid phosphatase, and phenol oxidase) activity, and soil carbon storage were determined 6 years after thinning. Compared to the control, microbial biomass carbon and nitrogen were higher under the intermediate and the heavy thinning by 13.9 and 24.4% and 11.5 and 29.9% at one oak forests, respectively, and higher under the intermediate thinning by 53.7 and 70.7% at one larch forests. There were the post-thinning changes in leucyl aminopeptidase activity by −46.9% and by 150.0–210.0% at an oak and larch forest, respectively, acid phosphatase activity by 60.0% at one oak forest, and phenol oxidase activity by 355.0% at one oak forest. The effect sizes of thinning for soil properties explained 94% and 77% of variance of the effect sizes for microbial biomass and enzyme activity. Especially, the effect sizes for soil water content, NH4 +, total carbon/nitrogen ratio, and temperature were the most influential. Furthermore, the effect size for soil carbon storage was parabolically related to the effect size for microbial biomass carbon (R2 = 0.66). These findings highlight that inconsistent thinning effects on soil properties varied microbial biomass and enzymatic responses to thinning, which differentiated the change in soil carbon storage across sites. Future studies should consider such inconsistencies when examining the effects of forest management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2068-2079
Number of pages12
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Feb 15


  • Enzyme activity
  • Forest management
  • Response ratio
  • Soil carbon storage
  • Thinning intensity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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