Symposium 2012

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Life in Microhabitats of Soils - Microbial Ecology of Biogeochemical Interfaces

A multitude of interacting organic, inorganic and living soil constituents build up extremely heterogeneous, hierarchically structured and large biogeochemical interfaces in soil. These interfaces affect a variety of processes in soil such as interactions and bioavailability of organic and inorganic compounds, formation and stability of aggregates, and movement and spatial distribution of solutes and gases.
The structural and compositional heterogeneity of biogeochemical interfaces is the source of a multitude of habitats and supports the vast biological and functional diversity and abundance. Microorganisms not only inhabit these interfaces, but may be seen as architects and actors in shaping their immediate environment. Known growth patterns and habitat forms are microorganisms as individual organisms, colonies or biofilms, supposedly not continuous, but patchy and disjoint. Yet, they are actively involved in the formation and restructuring of biogeochemical interfaces, but also in their destruction and destabilisation, where they contribute to the release of solutes, colloids and larger particles.
The symposium will focus on various aspects of soil microbial ecology including the identification of life in microhabitats in soils, its functioning, its role during formation and maturation of biogeochemical interfaces and the soil's pore system, its role in processing/degrading organic contaminants and soil organic matter together with interactions with mineral surfaces.
We therefore invite contributions (oral presentations and posters) from all soil science disciplines, which are linked to soil microbial ecology, including soil biology, ecology, chemistry, physics and mineralogy. The symposium aims at substantial exchange of results, ideas and approaches so that special emphasis is placed on extensive discussions.

Further information:

Date: 1.3. - 2.3.2012

Venue: Altes Schloss Dornburg (

Invited speakers:

  • Naoise Nunan (INRA Versailles-Grignon)
  • Karl Ritz (Cranfield University)
  • James M. Tiedje (Michigan State University)


Minutes from the meeting...

!Call for Papers!

FEMS Microbiology Ecology invites submissions for a Special Thematic Issue on: Microbial Ecology of Biogeochemical Interfaces - Diversity, Structure, and Function of Microhabitats in Soil

Submission Due Date: September 31, 2012

Please click here for a pdf of the Call for Papers


Properties and Functions of Biogeochemical Interfaces in Soil - Joint Quantitative Reconstruction with Theoretical and Advanced Instrumental Analytical Tools


The formation, maturation and persistence of soil minerals, soil organic matter and their associations are strongly influenced by soil biota and in particular by microorganisms. The dynamic spatial arrangements of these "ingredients" during pedogenesis and in response to local boundary conditions results in a highly complex hierarchical structure that defines an extremely large, heterogeneous, and dynamic interface (BGI, Totsche et al. 2010). This BGI has to be considered a three-dimensional domain of variable thickness ranging from nm to μm, which spreads within and throughout the soils' porous system and separates the immobile from the mobile liquid or gaseous phases. BGIs are the locations where strong biological, physical and chemical gradients will develop, and, in turn, the hotspots for processes that affect fluid flow and biogeochemical cycling of nutrients and contaminants. Understanding and visualizing the architecture of biogeochemical interfaces in soil, exploring the factors affecting their formation and maturation, and elucidating the processes occuring on biogeochemical interfaces has thus been identified as an emerging decadal challenge in soil science. Yet, the quantitative understanding of the role of BGIs in the functioning of soils requires two mandatory steps: (1) The acquisition of robust and quantitative information of the composition and properties of BGI based on advanced spectroscopic, (spectro)microscopic, tomographic data, and (2) the quantitative reconstruction of the formation and architecture of BGIs and their functioning by means of theoretical models that ideally combine and link physical, chemical and biological processes and dependencies on the different scales of observation.
The symposium aims to bring together specialists from the fields of advanced instrumental analysis techniques with experts from the field of theoretical, physically based modelling and computational chemistry to discuss the limits and prospects of the joint application of this two complementary scientific approaches in order to gain a mechanistic understanding of the controlling role of BGI for the fate of organic chemicals in soil.

Invited speakers:

  • Dorthe Wildenschild (Oregon State University)
  • James D. Kubicki (Pennsylavania State University)
  • Ulf Skyllberg (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences)
  • Chris Oostenbrink (University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna)

For short synopsis of the meeting please see: Second circular

More up-dated information gives: Final circular

Re-scheduled Date: 9.10. - 10.10.2012 (start: 9. October 13:00, end: 10. October 13:00)

(the beginning of the symposium has been re-scheduled from October 8, 2012 to October 9, 2012. The symposium will be finished on October 10, 2012 as planned)

Venue: Altes Schloss Dornburg (

Time schedule:
Programme finalization: 28.09.2012