A biological quality index for volcanic Andisols and Aridisols (Canary Islands, Spain): variations related to the ecosystem degradation.
The aim of this work is to identify indicators of biological activity in soils from the Canary Islands, by studying the variation of selected biological parameters related to the processes of deforestation and accelerated soil degradation affecting the Canarian natural ecosystems. Ten plots with different degrees of maturity/degradation have been selected in three typical habitats in the Canary Islands: laurel forest, pine forest and xerophytic scrub with Andisols and Aridisols as the most common soils. The studied characteristics in each case include total organic carbon, field soil respiration, mineralized carbon after laboratory incubation, microbial biomass carbon, hot water-extractable carbon and carboxymethylcellulase, beta-d-glucosidase and dehydrogenase activities. A Biological Quality Index (BQI) has been designed on the basis of a regression model using these variables, assuming that the total soil organic carbon content is quite stable in nearly mature ecosystems. Total carbon in mature ecosystems has been related to significant biological variables (hot water-extractable carbon, soil respiration and carboxymethylcellulase, beta-d-glucosidase and dehydrogenase activities), accounting for nearly 100% of the total variance by a multiple regression analysis. The index has been calculated as the ratio of the value calculated from the regression model and the actual measured value. The obtained results show that soils in nearly mature ecosystems have BQI values close to unit, whereas those in degraded ecosystems range between 0.24 and 0.97, depending on the degradation degree.