We investigated the effect of soil spatial variability within the sampling site scale, the effects of sample sieving (1, 2 and 4mm), and storage conditions up to 32 weeks (wet at 4 degrees C, -20 degrees C and air dried) on microbial biomass C, respiration, ammonification and nitrification activities in arable, grassland and forest soil. In general, all results were dependent on soil type. Arable soil showed the highest spatial variability, followed by grassland and forest soil. Sieving did not cause large differences; however, higher biomass C and respiration activity were observed in the 1mm than in the 4mm fraction. Storage at 4 degrees C seemed to be the most appropriate up to 8 weeks showing only minor changes of microbial parameters. Freezing of soils resulted in large increase of respiration. Dried storage indicated disruption of microbial communities even after 2 weeks.