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J Environ Qual. 2007 Jan 9;36(1):120-7. Print 2007 Jan-Feb.

Effects of tree root-derived substrates and inorganic nutrients on pyrene mineralization in rhizosphere and bulk soil.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH 45221-0006, USA.


This study investigated the effects of organic and inorganic nutrients on the microbial degradation of the common soil contaminant pyrene. The material used in this investigation was collected from potted trees that had been growing for over a year in a soil artificially contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Soil was removed from the nonroot (bulk) and root (rhizosphere) zones of these pots and used in mineralization studies that tracked microbial degradation of 14C-pyrene. The factors influencing degradation in these zones were then tested by amendment with essential inorganic nutrients or with root-derived materials. As expected, pyrene mineralization was greater in soil removed from the rhizosphere than in bulk soil. The rate of mineralization in rhizosphere soil was inhibited by inorganic nutrient amendment, whereas nutrients stimulated mineralization in the bulk soil. Pyrene mineralization in bulk soil was also increased by the addition of root extracts intended to mimic exudation by living roots. However, amendment with excised fine roots that were allowed to decay over time in soil initially inhibited mineralization. With time, the rate of mineralization increased, eventually exceeding that of unamended bulk soil. Combined, the initial inhibition and subsequent stimulation produced a zero net impact of decaying fine roots on bulk soil mineralization. Our results, in conjunction with known temporal patterns of fine root dynamics in natural systems, support the idea that seasonal variations in nutrient and substrate availability may influence the long-term effect of plants on organic degradation in soil, possibly reducing or negating the beneficial effects of vegetation that are often observed in short-term studies.

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