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  • 1
    Language: English
    In: Frontiers in Microbiology, 01 August 2018, Vol.9
    Description: Over the last 60 years, soil microbiologists have accumulated a wealth of experimental data showing that the bulk, macroscopic parameters (e.g., granulometry, pH, soil organic matter, and biomass contents) commonly used to characterize soils provide insufficient information to describe quantitatively the activity of soil microorganisms and some of its outcomes, like the emission of greenhouse gasses. Clearly, new, more appropriate macroscopic parameters are needed, which reflect better the spatial heterogeneity of soils at the microscale (i.e., the pore scale) that is commensurate with the habitat of many microorganisms. For a long time, spectroscopic and microscopic tools were lacking to quantify processes at that scale, but major technological advances over the last 15 years have made suitable equipment available to researchers. In this context, the objective of the present article is to review progress achieved to date in the significant research program that has ensued. This program can be rationalized as a sequence of steps, namely the quantification and modeling of the physical-, (bio)chemical-, and microbiological properties of soils, the integration of these different perspectives into a unified theory, its upscaling to the macroscopic scale, and, eventually, the development of new approaches to measure macroscopic soil characteristics. At this stage, significant progress has been achieved on the physical front, and to a lesser extent on the (bio)chemical one as well, both in terms of experiments and modeling. With regard to the microbial aspects, although a lot of work has been devoted to the modeling of bacterial and fungal activity in soils at the pore scale, the appropriateness of model assumptions cannot be readily assessed because of the scarcity of relevant experimental data. For significant progress to be made, it is crucial to make sure that research on the microbial components of soil systems does not keep lagging behind the work on the physical and (bio)chemical characteristics. Concerning the subsequent steps in the program, very little integration of the various disciplinary perspectives has occurred so far, and, as a result, researchers have not yet been able to tackle the scaling up to the macroscopic level. Many challenges, some of them daunting, remain on the path ahead. Fortunately, a number of these challenges may be resolved by brand new measuring equipment that will become commercially available in the very near future.
    Keywords: Soil Microbiology ; Biodiversity ; Upscaling ; Tomography ; X-Ray Computed ; Nanosims Imaging ; Biology
    E-ISSN: 1664-302X
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  • 2
    Language: English
    In: Biogeosciences, Sept 27, 2019, Vol.16(18), p.3665
    Description: pSoil denitrification is the most important terrestrial process returning reactive nitrogen to the atmosphere, but remains poorly understood. In upland soils, denitrification occurs in hotspots of enhanced microbial activity, even under well-aerated conditions, and causes harmful emissions of nitric (NO) and nitrous oxide (N.sub.2 O). The timing and magnitude of such emissions are difficult to predict due to the delicate balance of oxygen (O.sub.2) consumption and diffusion in soil. To study how spatial distribution of hotspots affects O.sub.2 exchange and denitrification, we embedded microbial hotspots composed of porous glass beads saturated with growing cultures of either Agrobacterium tumefaciens (a denitrifier lacking N.sub.2 O reductase) or Paracoccus denitrificans (a "complete" denitrifier) in different architectures (random vs. layered) in sterile sand that was adjusted to different water saturations (30thinsp;%, 60thinsp;%, 90thinsp;%). Gas kinetics (O.sub.2, CO.sub.2, NO, N.sub.2 O and N.sub.2) were measured at high temporal resolution in batch mode. Air connectivity, air distance and air tortuosity were determined by X-ray tomography after the experiment. The hotspot architecture exerted strong control on microbial growth and timing of denitrification at low and intermediate saturations, because the separation distance between the microbial hotspots governed local oxygen supply. Electron flow diverted to denitrification in anoxic hotspot centers was low (2thinsp;%-7thinsp;%) but increased markedly (17thinsp;%-27thinsp;%) at high water saturation. X-ray analysis revealed that the air phase around most of the hotspots remained connected to the headspace even at 90thinsp;% saturation, suggesting that the threshold response of denitrification to soil moisture could be ascribed to increasing tortuosity of air-filled pores and the distance from the saturated hotspots to these air-filled pores. Our findings suggest that denitrification and its gaseous product stoichiometry depend not only on the amount of microbial hotspots in aerated soil, but also on their spatial distribution. We demonstrate that combining measurements of microbial activity with quantitative analysis of diffusion lengths using X-ray tomography provides unprecedented insights into physical constraints regulating soil microbial respiration in general and denitrification in particular. This paves the way to using observable soil structural attributes to predict denitrification and to parameterize models. Further experiments with natural soil structure, carbon substrates and microbial communities are required to devise and parametrize denitrification models explicit for microbial hotspots.
    Keywords: Nitrogen Oxides – Analysis ; Soil Microbiology – Analysis ; Denitrification – Analysis ; Soil Carbon – Analysis
    ISSN: 1726-4170
    E-ISSN: 17264189
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