Frontiers in Microbiology, 01 July 2018, Vol.9
There is still no satisfactory understanding of the factors that enable soil microbial populations to be as highly biodiverse as they are. The present article explores in silico the hypothesis that the heterogeneous distribution of soil organic matter, in addition to the spatial connectivity of the soil moisture, might account for the observed microbial biodiversity in soils. A multi-species, individual-based, pore-scale model is developed and parameterized with data from 3 Arthrobacter sp. strains, known to be, respectively, competitive, versatile, and poorly competitive. In the simulations, bacteria of each strain are distributed in a 3D computed tomography (CT) image of a real soil and three water saturation levels (100, 50, and 25%) and spatial heterogeneity levels (high, intermediate, and low) in the distribution of the soil organic matter are considered. High and intermediate heterogeneity levels assume, respectively, an amount of particulate organic matter (POM) distributed in a single (high heterogeneity) or in four (intermediate heterogeneity) randomly placed fragments. POM is hydrolyzed at a constant rate following a first-order kinetic, and continuously delivers dissolved organic carbon (DOC) into the liquid phase, where it is then taken up by bacteria. The low heterogeneity level assumes that the food source is available from the start as DOC. Unlike the relative abundances of the 3 strains, the total bacterial biomass and respiration are similar under the high and intermediate resource heterogeneity schemes. The key result of the simulations is that spatial heterogeneity in the distribution of organic matter influences the maintenance of bacterial biodiversity. The least competing strain, which does not reach noticeable growth for the low and intermediate spatial heterogeneities of resource distribution, can grow appreciably and even become more abundant than the other strains in the absence of direct competition, if the placement of the resource is favorable. For geodesic distances exceeding 5 mm, microbial colonies cannot grow. These conclusions are conditioned by assumptions made in the model, yet they suggest that microscale factors need to be considered to better understand the root causes of the high biodiversity of soils.
Soil ; Pore Scale ; Organic Matter ; Resource Allocation ; Bacteria ; Biodiversity ; Biology
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