Sci Rep. 2022 Dec 23;12(1):22216. doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-26240-9.
The demand for reliable indicators to quantify soil health has increased recently. We propose and test the use of soil microbial functional diversity as an indicator of multifunctional performance in agriculturally important areas. Agricultural fields in the Mediterranean and semiarid regions of Israel were selected as test sites and measured in Spring and Autumn seasons. Measurements included microbial parameters, basic soil abiotic properties and biological responses to agricultural management relative to measures of a natural ecosystem. Using a canonical correlation analysis we found that soil moisture was the most important basic soil property with different responses in Spring and Autumn. In Spring, it had a strongly negative relation with microbial biomass (MB), community level physiological profiling (CLPP) and the Shannon-Weaver index H’, while in Autumn it had a strong relation with CLPP. We further show a significant interaction between CLPP and climate for land-use type “orchards”. CLPP measured in the autumn season was thus identified as a useful and rapid biological soil health indicator, recommended for application in semiarid and Mediterranean agricultural regions. Apart from obtaining a better understanding of CLPP as the soil indicator, the study concludes that CLPP is well suited to differentiate between soils in different climates, seasons and land use types. The study shows a promising direction for further research on characterizing soil health under a larger variety of conditions.