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Variable effects of labile carbon on the carbon use of different microbial groups in black slate degradation


Weathering of ancient organic matter contributes significantly to biogeochemical carbon cycles over geological times. The principle role of microorganisms in this process is well recognized. However, information is lacking on the contribution of individual groups of microorganisms and on the effect of labile carbon sources to the degradation process. Therefore, we investigated the contribution of fungi, Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria in the degradation process using a column experiment. Investigations were performed on low metamorphic black slates. All columns contained freshly crushed, sieved (0.63-2mm), not autoclaved black slates. Two columns were inoculated with the lignite-degrading fungus Schizophyllum commune and received a culture medium containing 13C labeled glucose, two columns received only this culture medium and two control columns received only water.The total mass balance was calculated from all carbon added to the slate and the CO2 and DOC losses. Phospholipid fatty acids (PLFA) were extracted to investigate microbial communities. We used both the compound specific 14C and 13C signal of the PLFA to quantify carbon uptake from black slates and the glucose of the culture medium, respectively.The total carbon loss in these columns exceeded the amount of added carbon by approximately 60%, indicating that black slate carbon has been used. PLFA associated with Gram-positive bacteria dominated the indigenous community and took up 22% of carbon from black slate carbon, whereas PLFA of Gram-negative bacteria used only 8% of carbon from the slates. PLFA of Gram-negative bacteria and fungi were both mostly activated by the glucose addition. The added Schizophyllum did not establish well in the columns and was overgrown by the indigenous microbial community. Our results suggest that especially Gram-positive bacteria are able to live on and degrade black slate material. They also benefit from easy degradable carbon from the nutrient broth. In natural environments priming due to root exudates might consequently enhance weathering. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.

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