Plant-microbe-mineral interaction as a driver for rock weathering and chemical denudation
The role of biological weathering in the transformation of the earth’s near surface is of great interest in the biogeosciences. We do not fully understand how plants, bacteria, and fungi (particularly mycorrhizal fungi) interact with abiotic forcings to promote the weathering of primary minerals and the incipient formation of soil. In this project we measure how plant–microbe interactions affect the initial weathering of four distinct rock types (basalt, granite, schist, and rhyolite) and the extent to which this weathering results in chemical denudation versus biomass accumulation or re-precipitation of dissolution products. Two types of higher plants are being used in a replicated plant-microbe-rock mesocosm : a grass species (with vesicular arbuscular mycorrhizal association) and a tree species (with ectomycorrhizal association). The experiments also include plant-free (but microbially-colonized) and abiotic controls.
This project is funded by the NSF Geobiology and Low-Temperature Geochemistry grant #1023215.
You can follow project progress on twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/B2_geobiology
Dr. Carmen I. Burghelea
Carmen, from the Department of Ecology and Animal Biology at the University of Vigo, Spain is visiting Biosphere 2 from November 2011 to August 2012. With a focus on morphology, ecology and biogeochemistry, Burghelea researches questions regarding ecological, biological and geochemical processes in arid and mountain landscapes. She is particularly interested in biota-environment interactions, with emphasis on quantifying the effects of environmental stress, such as from landscape, pollution and climate, on biota through the use of fluctuating asymmetry. She has also worked on trace element mobilization under recent climate change.
Jennifer is a 3rd year Biology student at the University of Arizona with strong interests in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. She joined Biosphere-2 Earth Science as a NSF funded summer intern. Jennifer's fine skills have been essential in the final phases of project setup. She likes cats, and she is passionate for science and swimming.
A Nutritional Science graduate at the University of Arizona, Andrew has joined our project as a research assitant in March 2012. His effort in the rock lab were crucial in setting up a clean experiment.
Past research assistants
Vanessa, a Pima College student with strong interests in teaching Biology has been involved in this project during 2011. Her skills on rock crusher and other rock processing steps have been essential. She likes to travel and she runs her own cup cake business.
Matt is a second year Geography student at the university of Arizona. He was involved in the initial phases of this project which included grinding and removing weathered surface of different rock types. Matt is interested in rock formation, travel and experiencing different cultures.
Currently working at Arizona Laboratory for Emerging Contaminants while pursuing a master in oboe performance at the University of Arizona, Lauren has been part of our team in 2011. She has been centerpiece in the initial stages of rock processing when different procedure were used to remove weathered surfaces and reduce core material to smaller grain size. She garduated with a music major and chemistry minor at UofA. Hobbies include horse back riding, hiking/climbing, and traveling.
Among the first research assistants to work with us, Jake has been involved in the development and testing of different rock processing procedure and tools besides dealing with significant part of this work. Jake has since landed a tour guide job at Biosphere-2. His passion has always been related to public interaction. He now uses his research experience to engage the general public into the science and activity behind this project.