Articles | Volume 13, issue 5
Research article
17 Mar 2016
Research article |  | 17 Mar 2016

Distribution of tetraether lipids in agricultural soils – differentiation between paddy and upland management

Cornelia Mueller-Niggemann, Sri Rahayu Utami, Anika Marxen, Kai Mangelsdorf, Thorsten Bauersachs, and Lorenz Schwark

Abstract. Rice paddies constitute almost a fifth of global cropland and provide more than half of the world's population with staple food. At the same time, they are a major source of methane and therewith significantly contribute to the current warming of Earth's atmosphere. Despite their apparent importance in the cycling of carbon and other elements, however, the microorganisms thriving in rice paddies are insufficiently characterized with respect to their biomolecules. Hardly any information exists on human-induced alteration of biomolecules from natural microbial communities in paddy soils through varying management types (affecting, e.g., soil or water redox conditions, cultivated plants). Here, we determined the influence of different land use types on the distribution of glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (GDGTs), which serve as molecular indicators for microbial community structures, in rice paddy (periodically flooded) and adjacent upland (non-flooded) soils and, for further comparison, forest, bushland and marsh soils. To differentiate local effects on GDGT distribution patterns, we collected soil samples in locations from tropical (Indonesia, Vietnam and Philippines) and subtropical (China and Italy) sites. We found that differences in the distribution of isoprenoid GDGTs (iGDGTs) as well as of branched GDGTs (brGDGTs) are predominantly controlled by management type and only secondarily by climatic exposition. In general, upland soil had higher crenarchaeol contents than paddy soil, which by contrast was more enriched in GDGT-0. The GDGT-0 ∕ crenarchaeol ratio, indicating the enhanced presence of methanogenic archaea, was 3–27 times higher in paddy soils compared to other soils and increased with the number of rice cultivation cycles per year. The index of tetraethers consisting of 86 carbons (TEX86) values were 1.3 times higher in upland, bushland and forest soils than in paddy soils, potentially due to differences in soil temperature. In all soils brGDGT predominated over iGDGTs with the relative abundance of brGDGTs increasing from subtropical to tropical soils. Higher branched vs. isoprenoid tetraether (BIT) values in paddy soils compared to upland soils together with higher BIT values in soils from subtropical climates indicated effects on the amounts of brGDGT induced by differences in management as well as climate. In acidic soils cyclization ratio of branched tetraethers (CBT) values correlated well with soil pH. In neutral to alkaline soils, however, no correlation but an offset in CBT between paddy and upland managed soils was detected. This is interpreted as indicating soil moisture exerting an additional control on the CBT in these soils. Lower modified methylation index of branched tetraether (MBT′) values and temperatures calculated from this (TMC) in paddy soils compared to upland soils are attributed to a management-induced (e.g. enhanced soil moisture via flooding) effect on mean annual soil temperature (MST).

Final-revised paper