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Environ Sci Technol. 2007 Dec 1;41(23):8070-6.

Microbially derived inputs to soil organic matter: are current estimates too low?

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, University of Toronto, Scarborough College, 1265 Military Trail, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. andre.simpson@utoronto.ca

Abstract

Soil microbes are central to many soil processes, but due to the structural complexity of soil organic matter, the accurate quantification of microbial biomass contributions continues to pose a significant analytical challenge. In this study, microbes from a range of soils were cultured such that their molecular profile could be compared to that of soil organic matter and native vegetation. With the use of modern NMR spectroscopy, the contributions from microbial species can be discerned in soil organic matter and quantified. On the basis of these studies, the contributions of microbial biomass to soil organic matter appear to be much higher than the 1-5% reported by other researchers. In some soils, microbial biomass was found to contribute >50% of the extractable soil organic matter fractions and approximately 45% of the humin fraction and accounted for >80% of the soil nitrogen. These findings are significant because organic matter is intimately linked to nutrient release and transport in soils, nitrogen turnover rates, contaminant fate, soil quality, and fertility. Therefore, if in some cases soil organic matter and soil organic nitrogen are predominately of microbial origin, it is likely that this fraction, whether in the form of preserved material or living cells, plays an underestimated role in several soil processes.

PMID:
18186339
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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