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FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2004 Apr 1;48(1):89-100. doi: 10.1016/j.femsec.2003.12.014.

Geochemical control of microbial Fe(III) reduction potential in wetlands: comparison of the rhizosphere to non-rhizosphere soil.

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Environmental Science and Policy Department, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA 22030, USA.


We compared the reactivity and microbial reduction potential of Fe(III) minerals in the rhizosphere and non-rhizosphere soil to test the hypothesis that rapid Fe(III) reduction rates in wetland soils are explained by rhizosphere processes. The rhizosphere was defined as the area immediately adjacent to a root encrusted with Fe(III)-oxides or Fe plaque, and non-rhizosphere soil was >0.5 cm from the root surface. The rhizosphere had a significantly higher percentage of poorly crystalline Fe (66+/-7%) than non-rhizosphere soil (23+/-7%); conversely, non-rhizosphere soil had a significantly higher proportion of crystalline Fe (50+/-7%) than the rhizosphere (18+/-7%, P<0.05 in all cases). The percentage of poorly crystalline Fe(III) was significantly correlated with the percentage of FeRB (r=0.76), reflecting the fact that poorly crystalline Fe(III) minerals are labile with respect to microbial reduction. Abiotic reductive dissolution consumed about 75% of the rhizosphere Fe(III)-oxide pool in 4 h compared to 23% of the soil Fe(III)-oxide pool. Similarly, microbial reduction consumed 75-80% of the rhizosphere pool in 10 days compared to 30-40% of the non-rhizosphere soil pool. Differences between the two pools persisted when samples were amended with an electron-shuttling compound (AQDS), an Fe(III)-reducing bacterium (Geobacter metallireducens), and organic carbon. Thus, Fe(III)-oxide mineralogy contributed strongly to differences in the Fe(III) reduction potential of the two pools. Higher amounts of poorly crystalline Fe(III) and possibly humic substances, and a higher Fe(III) reduction potential in the rhizosphere compared to the non-rhizosphere soil, suggested the rhizosphere is a site of unusually active microbial Fe cycling. The results were consistent with previous speculation that rapid Fe cycling in wetlands is due to the activity of wetland plant roots.

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