EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Spatial control of carbon dynamics in soil by microbial decomposer communities

Holger Pagel1, Björn Kriesche2, Marie Uksa3, Christian Poll3, Ellen Kandeler3, Volker Schmidt2, and Thilo Streck1
Holger Pagel et al.
  • 1University of Hohenheim, Institute of Soil Science and Land Evaluation, Biogeophysics, Stuttgart, Germany (
  • 2Ulm University, Institute of Stochastics, Ulm, Germany
  • 3University of Hohenheim, Institute of Soil Science and Land Evaluation, Soil Biology, Stuttgart, Germany

Trait-based models have improved the understanding and prediction of soil organic matter dynamics in terrestrial ecosystems. Microscopic observations and pore scale models are now increasingly used to quantify and elucidate the effects of soil heterogeneity on microbial processes. Combining both approaches provides a promising way to accurately capture spatial microbial-physicochemical interactions and to predict overall system behavior. The present study aims to quantify controls on carbon (C) turnover in soil due to the mm-scale spatial distribution of microbial decomposer communities in soil. A new spatially explicit trait-based model (SpatC) has been developed that captures the combined dynamics of microbes and soil organic matter (SOM) by taking into account microbial life-history traits and SOM accessibility. Samples of spatial distributions of microbes at µm-scale resolution were generated using a spatial statistical model based on Log Gaussian Cox Processes which was originally used to analyze distributions of bacterial cells in soil thin sections. These µm-scale distribution patterns were then aggregated to derive distributions of microorganisms at mm-scale. We performed Monte-Carlo simulations with microbial distributions that differ in mm-scale spatial heterogeneity and functional community composition (oligotrophs, copiotrophs and copiotrophic cheaters). Our modelling approach revealed that the spatial distribution of soil microorganisms triggers spatiotemporal patterns of C utilization and microbial succession. Only strong spatial clustering of decomposer communities induces a diffusion limitation of the substrate supply on the microhabitat scale, which significantly reduces the total decomposition of C compounds and the overall microbial growth. However, decomposer communities act as functionally redundant microbial guilds with only slight changes in C utilization. The combined statistical and process-based modelling approach derives distribution patterns of microorganisms at the mm-scale from microbial biogeography at microhabitat scale (µm) and quantifies the emergent macroscopic (cm) microbial and C dynamics. Thus, it effectively links observable process dynamics to the spatial control by microbial communities. Our study highlights a powerful approach that can provide further insights into the biological control of soil organic matter turnover.

How to cite: Pagel, H., Kriesche, B., Uksa, M., Poll, C., Kandeler, E., Schmidt, V., and Streck, T.: Spatial control of carbon dynamics in soil by microbial decomposer communities , EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-13107,, 2020

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