Exploring the niches of cellulose degradation in a forested soil focusing on edaphic, seasonal and spatial factors

Nutrient cycles

Soils contain the largest pool of carbon (C) on Earth with cellulose being the most abundant polymer, as it is a key component of plant structural C. The degradation of this polymer can influence the proportion of soil C that is released as CO2 into the atmosphere. Members of the Bacteria and Fungi are responsible for degrading cellulose, but their contributions remain unresolved. For a better understanding of the terrestrial C cycle it is vital to elucidate the active participants in cellulose degradation and identify different niches of cellulose-responsive guilds.

This project seeks to better our understanding of microbial cellulose degradation to the next level as it combines stable isotope probing (SIP) with next generation sequencing (NGS) to characterize cellulose-responsive guilds across various amendments, along with single-cell based approaches to appreciate this process at a more relevant spatial scale. The overarching goal is to understand the different niches of cellulose-responsive guilds in soils. The main aims of this project are to (1) identify the microbial key participants of cellulose degradation under different edaphic factors, (2) investigate any seasonal effects on the active cellulose-responsive community, and (3) focus on spatial aspects of cellulose degradation. To address this goal, a multidisciplinary approach will be employed - a synthesis of biogeochemical analysis, molecular, NGS approaches for community structure analysis and single-cell approaches such as FISH-NanoSIMS for the in situ analysis of cellulose-responsive microorganisms at their spatial scale.


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 321742.


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