EGU24-9456, updated on 08 Mar 2024
EGU General Assembly 2024
© Author(s) 2024. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

The role of microarthropodal groups in carbon turnover as revealed by 13C fatty acids analysis – method development and impact of heavy metal remediation

Andrea Watzinger, Noller Christoph, Janet Wissuwa, and Wolfgang Friesl-Hanl
Andrea Watzinger et al.
  • University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna, Institute of Soil Research, Department of Forest- and Soil Sciences, Tulln, Austria (

The most powerful tool to explore nutrient turnover in complex systems such as soils are stable isotope fractionation and labelling studies. This has been extensively used when investigating microbial carbon cycles by targeting the carbon stable isotopes in microbial phospholipid fatty acids (PLFA). However, exploring the role of mesofauna during carbon turnover in soil ecosystems has long been limited due to the small size and weight of those organisms and therefore issues in the detection and quantification of carbon stable isotope ratios. Only recently, carbon stable isotope analysis of fatty acids (FA) have been established and opened the window to include mesofauna into carbon turnover studies. We have used this new possibility after refining the available FA method to discover the role of microarthropods together with the microbial PLFA analysis. This study is to our knowledge the first, which has used 13C labelled plant material and has followed its incorporation into microbial PLFAs and microarthropodal FAs in a greenhouse experiment containing heavy metal contaminated and remediated soils.

Total microbial biomass and 13C incorporation into microorganisms was significantly increased and the PLFA pattern shifted after remediation of heavy metal contaminated soil. In accordance, the abundance of the microarthropodal groups Gamasina, Oribatida and Collembola were also increased, while Astigmata were not affected. The relative FA patterns of those groups differentiated significantly among each other, but were not influenced by soil treatment, meaning that the altered microbial PLFA pattern was not transferred into microarthropodal FA. However, the amount (nmol FA) per individuum was elevated in the heavy metal contaminated soil. In contrast, incorporation of 13C into FA was lower in contaminated soil in Gamasina, Astigmata and Collembola. 13C incorporation of Oribatida was at a constantly high level over the different soil treatments.

These first results revealed, that the relative FA pattern of the microarthropodal groups was not affected by changes in the microbial PLFA pattern due to soil treatments. Differences in the absolute FA amount per individuum and the 13C uptake were rather governed by the life and reproduction strategies, with higher fattiness and low abundance under adverse environmental conditions (contaminated soil), constant 13C incorporation in K-strategist (Oribatida) and higher 13C incorporation of mainly r-strategist (Gamasina, Astigmata and Collembola) under improved conditions.

How to cite: Watzinger, A., Christoph, N., Wissuwa, J., and Friesl-Hanl, W.: The role of microarthropodal groups in carbon turnover as revealed by 13C fatty acids analysis – method development and impact of heavy metal remediation, EGU General Assembly 2024, Vienna, Austria, 14–19 Apr 2024, EGU24-9456,, 2024.