The SOIL MICROBIAL ECOLOGY GROUP at NEIKER-Tecnalia is most interested in the impact of different sources of environmental stress (above all but not exclusively, contamination and agricultural practices) on soil health, defined as the capacity of a given soil to sustainably perform its functions and ecosystem services from both an anthropocentric and ecocentric point of view.
Our research is focused on the utilization of soil microbial properties (mainly, those related to the biomass, activity and structural/functional diversity of soil microbial communities) as biological indicators of (i) the impact of disturbances on soil health and (ii) the efficiency of remediation methods (bioremediation and phytoremediation of soils contaminated with heavy metals and/or organic compounds). Regarding agricultural practices (fertilization, tillage, pesticides application, etc.), we work on the utilization of soil microbial properties as biomonitoring tools for the assessment of the improvement in soil health resulting from the application of more environmentally-friendly agricultural practices (e.g., no-tillage, organic fertilization, and so on).
To these aims, among others, we use the following techniques as microbial indicators of soil health: microbial biomass carbon, ATP content, substrate-induced respiration, Q-PCR (bacteria, fungi, chitinase degraders, ammonium oxidizers), basal respiration, potentially mineralizable nitrogen, potential nitrification rate, enzyme activities (ß-glucosidase, ß-glucosaminidase, urease, amidase, arylsulfatase, acid and alkaline phosphatase, dehydrogenase, protease, FDA-fluorescein diacetate hydrolysis), community-level genetic profiles with PCR-DGGE (bacteria, fungi, chitinase degraders, ammonium oxidizers), community-level physiological profiles with Biolog™ plates, community-level hybridization, functional microarrays, high-throughput sequencing, essays for ecosystem attributes (stability/resilience, redundancy, suppresiveness, organization, vigor), etc.
Neiker Tecnalia 2009