Activity of the microbial decomposer community in metal-contaminated roadside soils.
Rates of decomposition were measured in roadside soils of high and low metal concentration in SW London, UK, to determine whether metal contamination from traffic had affected the activity of the soil microbial community. Cellulose-strip degradation studies demonstrated that total soil metal concn per se were not associated with any negative effect on the rate of decomposition of a simple and uncontaminated resource. Basal respiration per gram of metal contaminated roadside soil was higher than that of less contaminated soil at a distance from the road. Litter-bag studies and soil respiration measurements based on high and low metal contaminated roadside soil and litter additions showed that metal contamination of roadside plant litter was associated with significant reductions in decomposition rates. Rates of litter decomposition, however, were not affected by increases in soil metal concn with proximity to the road.