The microbial ecology of cork oak rhizosphere was investigated using the Biolog community level physiological profile (CLPP) that provides a unique metabolic fingerprint helpful for the characterization of complex microbial communities. Microbial populations from the rhizosphere of cork oak plants growing at three different sites within the same area were characterized using CLPP and compared. The sites were distinguished by a different soil management under the tree cover and, in general terms, by a different anthropogenic impact. The comparison of metabolic fingerprints of the different microbial populations showed the existence of a relationship between general microbial activity and functional biodiversity in the rhizosphere and the level of anthropogenic impact. Particularly the presence of grazing animals, soil tillage and fire could be identified as the main factors affecting both the general microbial activity and the structure of microbial populations from cork oak rhizospheres.