Kravchenko, A. N., A. K. Guber, B. S. Rasavi, J. Koestel, M. Y. Quigley, G. P. Robertson, and Y. Kuzyakov. 2019. Microbial spatial footprint as a driver of soil carbon stabilization. Nature Communications 10:3121.
Increasing the potential of soil to store carbon © is an acknowledged and emphasized strategy for capturing atmospheric CO2. Well-recognized approaches for soil C accretion include reducing soil disturbance, increasing plant biomass inputs, and enhancing plant diversity. Yet experimental evidence often fails to support anticipated C gains, suggesting that our integrated understanding of soil C accretion remains insufficient. Here we used a unique combination of X-ray micro-tomography and micro-scale enzyme mapping to demonstrate for the first time that plant-stimulated soil pore formation appears to be a major, hitherto unrecognized, determinant of whether new C inputs are stored or lost to the atmosphere. Unlike monocultures, diverse plant communities favor the development of 30-150 µm pores. Such pores are the micro-environments associated with higher enzyme activities, and greater abundance of such pores translates into a greater spatial footprint that microorganisms make on the soil and consequently soil C storage capacity.
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