Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript. Springer Nature is making Coronavirus research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates Soil organic carbon (SOC) sequestration with enhanced stable carbon storage has been widely accepted as a very important ecosystem property. Yet, the link between carbon stability and bio-activity for ecosystem functioning with OC accumulation in field soils has not been characterized. We assessed the changes in microbial activity versus carbon stability along a paddy soil chronosequence shifting from salt marsh in East China. We used mean weight diameter, normalized enzyme activity (NEA) and carbon gain from straw amendment for addressing soil aggregation, microbial biochemical activity and potential C sequestration, respectively. In addition, a response ratio was employed to infer the changes in all analyzed parameters with prolonged rice cult...