Understanding the role of roots and bacteria in the phosphorus cycle
Phosphorus is an important nutrient for plant growth, but its availability is often limited in tropical forests. While most studies focus on either roots or bacteria, scientists from Oak Ridge National Laboratory studied an important enzyme (phosphatase) in both roots and bacteria, showing that phosphatase release varies with tree species and soil phosphorus availability.
Earth System Models poorly represent tropical forests in part due to a lack of data on both the phosphorus cycle and the belowground processes that influence them. The results can be used to improve how models represent the influence that roots and microbes have on the phosphorus cycle in tropical forests.
Earth System Models simulate the global carbon cycle to predict how our world responds to and changes with perturbations to the carbon cycle. Tropical forests absorb a large amount of carbon in the atmosphere, which makes it important to understand how they grow and are influenced by environmental factors such as phosphorus. Roots and microbes interact to access nutrients and water from the soil environment. In tropical forests, roots and microbes must release phosphatase, an enzyme that breaks down phosphorus locked into organic material. Plant growth in future climates may be highly influenced by whether plants can release enough phosphatase to continue growing. Scientists from ORNL studied phosphatase activity in roots and bacteria collected from different tree species and soil phosphorus availabilities in tropical forests of Puerto Rico to better understand phosphatase activity. The influence of roots and bacteria on the phosphorus cycle are not usually included in Earth System Models. The study’s results can be used to help improve Earth System Models.
Contacts (BER PM)
Richard J. Norby
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Environmental Sciences Division
Climate Change Science Institute
This research was supported as part of the Next Generation Ecosystem Experiments – Tropics, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research.
K. Cabugao, C. Timm, A. Carrell, J. Childs, T. Lu, D. Pelletier, D. Weston, R. Norby (2017), “Root and rhizosphere bacterial phosphatase activity varies with tree species and soil phosphorus availability in Puerto Rico tropical forest,” Frontiers in Plant Science 8:1834 (2017). [doi: 10.3389/fpls.2017.01834].
SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER
BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER
Aug 24, 2019
New Approach for Studying How Microbes Influence Their Environment
A diverse group of scientists suggests a common framework and targeting of known microbial processes [more...]
Aug 08, 2019
Nutrient-Hungry Peatland Microbes Reduce Carbon Loss Under Warmer Conditions
Enzyme production in peatlands reduces carbon lost to respiration under future high temperatures. [more...]
Aug 05, 2019
Amazon Forest Response to CO2 Fertilization Dependent on Plant Phosphorus Acquisition
AmazonFACE Model Intercomparison. The Science Plant growth is dependent on the availabi [more...]
Jul 29, 2019
A Slippery Slope: Soil Carbon Destabilization
Carbon gain or loss depends on the balance between competing biological, chemical, and physical reac [more...]
Jul 15, 2019
Field Evaluation of Gas Analyzers for Measuring Ecosystem Fluxes
How gas analyzer type and correction method impact measured fluxes. The Science A side- [more...]
List all highlights (possible long download time)