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A novel method for the study of the biophysical interface in soils using nano-scale secondary ion mass spectrometry

Authors

  • Anke M. Herrmann,

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Earth and Geographical Sciences, The University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia
    2. Institute for Research on Environment and Sustainability, Devonshire Building, University of Newcastle, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RU, UK
    Current affiliation:
    1. School of Earth and Geographical Sciences, The University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia.
    • Institute for Research on Environment and Sustainability, Devonshire Building, University of Newcastle, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RU, UK.
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  • Peta L. Clode,

    1. The Centre for Microscopy and Microanalysis, The University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia
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  • Ian R. Fletcher,

    1. The Centre for Microscopy and Microanalysis, The University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia
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  • Naoise Nunan,

    1. CNRS, UMR BioEMCo, Institut National Agronomique Paris-Grignon, Bâtiment EGER, 78850 Thiverval-Grignon, France
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  • Elizabeth A. Stockdale,

    1. School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, King George VI Building, University of Newcastle, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RU, UK
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  • Anthony G. O'Donnell,

    1. Institute for Research on Environment and Sustainability, Devonshire Building, University of Newcastle, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RU, UK
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  • Daniel V. Murphy

    1. School of Earth and Geographical Sciences, The University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia
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Abstract

The spatial location of microorganisms and their activity within the soil matrix have major impacts on biological processes such as nutrient cycling. However, characterizing the biophysical interface in soils is hampered by a lack of techniques at relevant scales. A novel method for studying the distribution of microorganisms that have incorporated isotopically labelled substrate (‘active’ microorganisms) in relation to the soil microbial habitat is provided by nano-scale secondary ion mass spectrometry (NanoSIMS). Pseudomonas fluorescens are ubiquitous in soil and were therefore used as a model for ‘active’ microorganisms in soil. Batch cultures (NCTC 10038) were grown in a minimal salt medium containing 15N-ammonium sulphate (15/14N ratio of 1.174), added to quartz-based white sand or soil (coarse textured sand), embedded in Araldite 502 resin and sectioned for NanoSIMS analysis. The 15N-enriched P. fluorescens could be identified within the soil structure, demonstrating that the NanoSIMS technique enables the study of spatial location of microbial activity in relation to the heterogeneous soil matrix. This technique is complementary to the existing techniques of digital imaging analysis of soil thin sections and scanning electron microscopy. Together with advanced computer-aided tomography of soils and mathematical modelling of soil heterogeneity, NanoSIMS may be a powerful tool for studying physical and biological interactions, thereby furthering our understanding of the biophysical interface in soils. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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