Interaction of minerals, organic matter, and microorganisms during biogeochemical interface formation as shown by a series of artificial soil experiments

Geertje J. Pronk, Katja Heister, Cordula Vogel, Doreen Babin, Jörg Bachmann, Guo Chun Ding, Franziska Ditterich, Martin H. Gerzabek, Julia Giebler, Michael Hemkemeyer, Ellen Kandeler, Yamuna Kunhi Mouvenchery, Anja Miltner, Christian Poll, Gabriele E. Schaumann, Kornelia Smalla, Annelie Steinbach, Irina Tanuwidjaja, Christoph C. Tebbe, Lukas Y. WickSusanne K. Woche, Kai U. Totsche, Michael Schloter, Ingrid Kögel-Knabner

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


Our understanding of the interactions between minerals, organic matter, and microorganisms at so-called biogeochemical interfaces in soil is still hampered by the inherent complexity of these systems. Artificial soil maturation experiments can help to bridge a gap in complexity between simple abiotic sorption experiments and larger-scale field experiments. By controlling other soil-forming factors, the effect of a particular variable can be identified in a simplified system. Here, we review the findings of a series of artificial soil incubation experiments with the aim of revealing general trends and conclusions. The artificial soils were designed to determine the effect of mineral composition and charcoal presence on the development of abiotic and biotic soil properties during maturation. In particular, the development of soil aggregates, organic matter (OM) composition and turnover, sorption properties, and the establishment of microbial community composition and function were considered. The main objectives of the research were to determine (1) how surface properties and sorption of chemicals modify biogeochemical interfaces; (2) how much time is required to form aggregates from mixtures of pure minerals, OM, and a microbial inoculum; and (3) how the presence of different mineral and charcoal surfaces affects aggregation, OM turnover, and the development of microbial community composition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-22
Number of pages14
JournalBiology and Fertility of Soils
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017


  • Biogeochemical interfaces
  • Experimental pedology
  • Interdisciplinary soil science
  • Secondary phyllosilicates
  • Soil microbial ecology
  • Soil organic matter


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