DeepEarthshape - Microbial element cycling as a driver of soil formation

DFG SP 1389/5-2 in PP 1803

From 11/2018 to 12/2022

Principal Investigator: Marie Spohn
Staff: Andrea Scheibe

It is not known in detail how microbial activity in soil affects soil formation in different soil depths and under different climatic conditions. The overarching aim of the project proposed here is therefore to study how microbial cycling of C, N, P and Si affects soil formation. For this purpose, we will, first, study microbial biomass, microbial respiration, and the age of total organic C and respired C in soil and saprolite along a climate gradient in the Costal Cordillera of Chile. Second, we aim at quantifying non-symbiotic N2 fixation along the climate gradient, and at understanding the factors that limit N2 fixation, microbial respiration and silicate weathering. We will test the hypotheses (i) that microbial respiration in the saprolite that advances weathering is fueled by young organic matter, (ii) that CO2 concentrations in saprolite are positively correlated with the net primary production, and that (iii) N2 fixation is strongly limited by water availability along the climate gradient in the Costal Cordillera of Chile. In order to test these hypotheses, we will quantify microbial biomass in 10 m deep saprolite cores taken from four study sites along the climate gradient, and we will quantify the age of total organic C and respired C based on radiocarbon dating. Furthermore, we will quantify N2 fixation in incubations with 15N-N2. Finally, we will synthesize and model the results on biogenic weathering and microbial C, N, P, and Si cycling along the climate gradient in the Costal Cordillera that have been collected during the first and second phase of the priority program. The main value of the project will be that it relates microbial cycling of C, N, P and Si to the formation of soils.

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