Sticky Dead Microbes: rapid abiotic retention of microbial necromass in soil

Kate M. Buckeridge, Alfio Fabio La Rosa , Kelly E. Mason, Jeanette Whitaker, Niall P. McNamara, Helen K. Grant, Nick Ostle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Microbial necromass dominates soil organic matter. Recent research on necromass and soil carbon storage has focused on necromass production and stabilization mechanisms but not
15 on the mechanisms of necromass retention. We present evidence from soil incubations with
stable-isotope labelled necromass that abiotic adsorption may be more important than biotic immobilization for short-term necromass retention. We demonstrate that necromass adsorbs not only to mineral surfaces, but may also interact with other necromass. Furthermore, necromass cell chemistry alters necromass-necromass interaction, with more bacterial tracer retained when there is yeast necromass present. These findings suggest that the adsorption and abiotic interaction of microbial necromass and its functional properties, beyond chemical stability, deserve further investigation in the context of soil carbon sequestration.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
Early online date14 Aug 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Aug 2020


  • Soil organic matter
  • Functional properties
  • Stable isotope
  • Grassland pasture
  • Carbon sequestration
  • Nitrogen


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