Persistence of denitrifying enzyme activity in dried soils.
The effects of air drying soil on denitrifying enzyme activity, denitrifier numbers, and rates of N gas loss from soil cores were measured. Only 29 and 16% of the initial denitrifying enzyme activity in fresh, near field capacity samples of Maury and Donerail soils, respectively, were lost after 7 days of air drying. The denitrifying activity of bacteria added to soil and activity recently formed in situ were not stable during drying. When dried and moist soil cores were irrigated, evolution of N gas began, and it maximized sooner in the dried cores. This suggests that the persistence of denitrifying enzymes permits accelerated denitrification when dried soils are remoistened. Enzyme activity increased significantly in these waterlogged cores, but fluctuations in enzyme activity were small compared with fluctuations in actual denitrification rate, and enzyme activities were always greater than denitrification rates. Apparent numbers of isolatable denitrifiers (most-probable-number counts) decreased more than enzyme activity as the soils were dried, but after the soils were rewetted, the extent of apparent growth was not consistently related to the magnitude of N loss. We hypothesize that activation-inactivation of existing enzymes by soil O(2) is of greater significance in transient denitrification events than is growth of denitrifiers or synthesis of new enzymes.