Conference in Finland sheds new light on soil pH

The acidity experienced by microbes at a certain spot, seems to be different than the measured acidity of soils. This, and other findings were shown at the international conference ‘Ecology of Soil Microorganisms’ organized in Helsinki (Finland). About 8 soil ecologists from Wageningen were present. Elly Morriën reports here impression.

The first day of the conference, attended by more than 400 ecologists, was especially focussed on fundamental knowledge, Morriën explains by phone. It delivered the ecologist associated to the University of Amsterdam and the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) quite some new insights, especially on the methodological side. During the day several new techniques for DNA sequencing were presented, such as sequencing on single cells.


Acidity of soil particles

The measured pH, moreover, turned out the be not necessarily relevant for many soil organisms. This measured pH reflects a summary of a bit of soil, however, the pH experienced by microbes may differs from soil particle to soil particle, one of the presentations showed. These extremely local differences may shape the community of bacteria and other soil organisms, the researchers concluded.

Also Morriën’s view on ‘primary succession’ shifted during the day. So far, it was assumed that new organisms colonised places that were covered by land ice before, however, new research showed that also frozen land contains a microbial community, which subsequently shapes the succession of this land at the moment the land ice disappears.


Main message

The main message of the conference was that soil ecologists should collaborate more with other soil scientists. Also the collaboration among soil ecologists should increase in accordance to Morriën. ‘Joshua Schimel made a beautiful’, Morriën tells. To give one example, currently researchers focus on carbon flows in a study system they are specialized in. However, the amount of carbon differers strongly from system to system. ‘If we really want to understand the mechanisms behind, we should combine these different studies’, she explains.

Last presentation

During the next days Morriën expects to hear more about applied research. Also various speakers associated to the Wageningen Centre for Soil Ecology will present their work, such as Wim van der Putten (NIOO-KNAW) and Rachel Creamer (WUR). Morriën herself will present on Thursday, being the last one of the whole conference.

Nederlandstalige versie