Seasonal patterns of cellulase concentration in desert soil

Ruth Pavel, Jack Doyle, Yosef Steinberger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


The concentration of cellulose in plant material greatly affects the decomposition rate of plant-derived litter and hence carbon availability. The disappearance of pure cellulose in soil was studied as a measure of plant decomposition and carbon turnover. Our objective was to understand the effect of various cellulose concentrations and plant material added to soil and collected during different seasons, on cellulase concentrations under laboratory conditions (e.g. constant soil moisture and incubation temperature). The percentage of recovery of the enzyme in the control soil and in samples amended with known amounts of cellulose powder was estimated. Several methods for estimating soil cellulase concentrations/activity are available, most based on the determination of released reducing sugars. The method used in this study is based on the cleavage of a cellulose-azure substrate by cellulase to spectrophotometrically detectable fragments. Our results showed a significant correlation (p<0.05) between cellulose concentration and cellulase levels in soil, which varied along the study period. When pure cellulose was added to the soil, cellulase was detected after 7 days of incubation, whereas when plant material was added to the soil, cellulase was detected after 14 days. The recovery of cellulase from soil was also found to be seasonally dependent. The method of cellulase determination used in this study was simple, safe and rapid. From the results presented in this study, it can be assumed that there are seasonally dependent factors that affect the existence and concentration of cellulase in soils of the arid Negev Desert, in addition to organic matter, water and temperature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)549-554
Number of pages6
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2004


  • Arid soil
  • Cellulase
  • Organic matter


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