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Spatial distribution of N processes and microbial communities in arable soils at micro- and nano- scales


The activity of microorganisms in soil is regulated by soil-water-oxygen interactions, the availability of a habitable space and a food source. The relationship between the spatial location of microorganisms in soil and the actual physical structure of the soil has a major influence on nitrogen (N) cycling processes. However, to date the international research community knows very little about the interactions between soil physics and soil biology. This is because of a prior lack of sensitive techniques and equipment to apply to this emerging field of research.

However, this is now possible with use of the latest technology available in microscopy, stable isotopes and molecular techniques. This can be achieved through collaborative research between the University of Newcastle upon Tyne (United Kingdom) and the University of Western Australia (UWA). The recent acquisition of the nano-Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometer at UWA (one of only 10 in the world) which links high-resolution microscopy to N isotope analysis provides the previously missing piece of the jigsaw in this proposed research. This means that the Marie Curie Fellow will be at the forefront of this emerging field of soil research.

The aim of SPANAMICO is therefore to improve our understanding of how the soils 3-Dimensional (3-D) chemical and physical matrix regulates the cycling of N within the soil and from the soil to water and air. The main objective is to understand the direct importance of the soils 3-D matrix on the regulation of microorganisms involved in denitrification, nitrification and immobilisation. With the latest developments in technology this is now achievable at a micro- to nano-meter scale. Findings will be of direct relevance to the sustainable management of N in soil and from soil to water and atmosphere. In particular we address three key areas of thematic priority No 6: (i) greenhouse gases, (ii) water cycle and soil, and (iii) sustainable land management.

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6 Kensington Terrace
United Kingdom

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