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Biological Impact on Mineral Dissolution: Application of the Lichen Model to Understanding Mineral Weathering in the Rhizosphere

Jillian F. Banfield, William W. Barker, Susan A. Welch and Anne Taunton
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Vol. 96, No. 7 (Mar. 30, 1999), pp. 3404-3411
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/47651
Page Count: 8
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Biological Impact on Mineral Dissolution: Application of the Lichen Model to Understanding Mineral Weathering in the Rhizosphere
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Abstract

Microorganisms modify rates and mechanisms of chemical and physical weathering and clay growth, thus playing fundamental roles in soil and sediment formation. Because processes in soils are inherently complex and difficult to study, we employ a model based on the lichen-mineral system to identify the fundamental interactions. Fixed carbon released by the photosynthetic symbiont stimulates growth of fungi and other microorganisms. These microorganisms directly or indirectly induce mineral disaggregation, hydration, dissolution, and secondary mineral formation. Model polysaccharides were used to investigate direct mediation of mineral surface reactions by extracellular polymers. Polysaccharides can suppress or enhance rates of chemical weathering by up to three orders of magnitude, depending on the pH, mineral surface structure and composition, and organic functional groups. Mg, Mn, Fe, Al, and Si are redistributed into clays that strongly adsorb ions. Microbes contribute to dissolution of insoluble secondary phosphates, possibly via release of organic acids. These reactions significantly impact soil fertility. Below fungi-mineral interfaces, mineral surfaces are exposed to dissolved metabolic byproducts. Through this indirect process, microorganisms can accelerate mineral dissolution, leading to enhanced porosity and permeability and colonization by microbial communities.

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