Three-dimensional microorganization of the soil-root-microbe system

Debbie S. Feeney, John W. Crawford, Tim Daniell, Paul D. Hallett, Naoise Nunan, Karl Ritz, Mark Rivers, Iain M. Young*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

229 Citations (Scopus)


Soils contain the greatest reservoir of biodiversity on Earth, and the functionality of the soil ecosystem sustains the rest of the terrestrial biosphere. This functionality results from complex interactions between biological and physical processes that are strongly modulated by the soil physical structure. Using a novel combination of biochemical and biophysical indicators and synchrotron microtomography, we have discovered that soil microbes and plant roots microengineer their habitats by changing the porosity and clustering properties (i.e., spatial correlation) of the soil pores. Our results indicate that biota act to significantly alter their habitat toward a more porous, ordered, and aggregated structure that has important consequences for functional properties, including transport processes. These observations support the hypothesis that the soil-plant-microbe complex is self-organized.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-158
Number of pages8
JournalMicrobial Ecology
Issue number1
Early online date6 May 2006
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2006


  • fungi
  • ergosterol concentration


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