Sensing the unseen consequences of global change: Deciphering microbial and matrix interactions mediating carbon stabilization in soils Grant uri icon


  • Soils are the largest terrestrial reservoir of carbon (C), storing two-to-three times as much C as aboveground vegetation and the atmosphere, respectively. Microorganisms are the primary agents for determining the fate of C and nutrients in soils. Yet our ability to link microbial composition, function and activity to whole soil and ecosystem processes, such as soil greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, is often confounded by complex geochemical, hydrological and physical interactions occurring in the soil matrix. The molecular composition of C and its energetic properties, associations with mineral surfaces, or physical occlusion in soil aggregates can all effect the turnover potential of carbon. Biological drivers, such as microbial composition or genetic function potentials and access to necessary resources or environments are also important in determining C transformations in the soil matrix. Untangling the interactions between these abiotic and biotic drivers of organic carbon stabilization will provide mechanistic insight necessary to predict the source and sink potential that soils play in the global C cycle. Such mechanistic knowledge is especially relevant when it comes to predicting soil C dynamics in response to global change, defined here as changes in land use, management, and cover, or changes in climate (e.g., temperature, precipitation and fire). Global change has directly and indirectly altered the abiotic and biotic properties in soils, which has significant implications for soil C storage. This research will identify ways in which microorganisms interact with their physical and chemical environment in response to global changes, and will elucidate how those interactions govern soil ecosystem services, namely the potential of soils to stabilize C.

date/time interval

  • 2019 - 2024