EGU24-2895, updated on 08 Mar 2024
EGU General Assembly 2024
© Author(s) 2024. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Formate consumption and stable carbon isotope fractionation in anoxic rice field soils and lake sediments

Ralf Conrad and Peter Claus
Ralf Conrad and Peter Claus
  • Max-Planck-Institut für Terrestrische Mikrobiologie, Biogeochemistry, Marburg, Germany (

Formate is energetically equivalent to hydrogen and thus, is an important intermediate during the breakdown of organic matter in anoxic rice field soils and lake sediments. Formate is a common substrate for methanogenesis, homoacetogenesis and sulfate reduction. However, how much these processes contribute to formate degradation and fractionate carbon stable isotopes is largely unknown. Therefore, we measured the conversion of formate to acetate, CH4 and CO2 and the δ13C of these compounds in samples of paddy soils from Vercelli (Italy) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI, the Philippines) and of sediments from the NE and SW basins of Lake Fuchskuhle (Germany). The samples were suspended in phosphate buffer (pH 7.0) both in the absence and presence of sulfate (gypsum) and of methyl fluoride (CH3F), an inhibitor of aceticlastic methanogenesis. In the paddy soils, formate was found to be an excellent substrate for acetate formation, while CH4 was mainly produced from acetate. Acetate was also produced in the presence of sulfate. The produced acetate was strongly depleted in 13C relative to formate (about -50‰ to-25‰), but the consumption of formate itself displayed only a small isotope enrichment factor on the order of -8‰ to -6‰. Therefore, it is likely that formate was disproportionated to 13C-depleted acetate and 13C-enriched CO2. The δ13C of CO2 was indeed slightly higher than that of formate. Acetate was most likely produced by homoacetogenesis via the Wood-Ljungdahl pathway. Methane was only a minor product and was mainly produced from the acetate as its production was inhibited by CH3F. The homoactogenic bacteria in the paddy soils apparently competed well with both methanogenic and sulfate-reducing microorganisms, when formate was the substrate. In the lake sediments, the product spectrum was similar, but only under methanogenic conditions. In the presence of sulfate, however, acetate and CH4 were only minor products and no enrichment factor was detectable when formate was degraded to mainly CO2. Hence, homoacetogenesis was the major anaerobic degradation pathway of formate. Formate-dependent methanogenesis was negligible, and sulfate-dependent oxidation was only operative in the lake sediments but not in the paddy soils.

How to cite: Conrad, R. and Claus, P.: Formate consumption and stable carbon isotope fractionation in anoxic rice field soils and lake sediments, EGU General Assembly 2024, Vienna, Austria, 14–19 Apr 2024, EGU24-2895,, 2024.