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ISME J. 2014 Jun;8(6):1289-300. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2013.233. Epub 2014 Jan 16.

Importance of soil organic matter for the diversity of microorganisms involved in the degradation of organic pollutants.

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Thünen Institute of Biodiversity, Federal Research Institute for Rural Areas, Forestry and Fisheries, Bundesallee 50, Braunschweig, Germany.


Many organic pollutants are readily degradable by microorganisms in soil, but the importance of soil organic matter for their transformation by specific microbial taxa is unknown. In this study, sorption and microbial degradation of phenol and 2,4-dichlorophenol (DCP) were characterized in three soil variants, generated by different long-term fertilization regimes. Compared with a non-fertilized control (NIL), a mineral-fertilized NPK variant showed 19% and a farmyard manure treated FYM variant 46% more soil organic carbon (SOC). Phenol sorption declined with overall increasing SOC because of altered affinities to the clay fraction (soil particles <2 mm in diameter). In contrast, DCP sorption correlated positively with particulate soil organic matter (present in the soil particle fractions of 63-2000 μm). Stable isotope probing identified Rhodococcus, Arthrobacter (both Actinobacteria) and Cryptococcus (Basidiomycota) as the main degraders of phenol. Rhodococcus and Cryptococcus were not affected by SOC, but the participation of Arthrobacter declined in NPK and even more in FYM. (14)C-DCP was hardly metabolized in the NIL variant, more efficiently in FYM and most in NPK. In NPK, Burkholderia was the main degrader and in FYM Variovorax. This study demonstrates a strong effect of SOC on the partitioning of organic pollutants to soil particle size fractions and indicates the profound consequences that this process could have for the diversity of bacteria involved in their degradation.

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