A Model Sheet Mineral System to Study Fungal Bioweathering of Mica

Zhan Wei, Martin Kierans, Geoffrey M. Gadd

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    33 Citations (Scopus)


    The general objective of this research was to examine fungal interactions with silicate minerals within the context of their roles in bioweathering. To achieve this, we used muscovite, a phyllosilicate mineral (KAl2[(OH)(2)|AlSi3O10]), in the form of a mineral sheet model system for ease of experimental manipulation and microscopic examination. It was found that test fungal species successfully colonized and degraded the surface of muscovite sheets in both laboratory and field experiments. After colonization by the common soil fungus Aspergillus niger, a network of hyphae covered the surface of the muscovite, and mineral dissolution or degradation was clearly evidenced by a network of fungal "footprints" that reflected coverage by the mycelium. For natural soil incubations, microorganisms associated with muscovite sheet material included biofilms of fungi and bacteria on the surface, while mineral encrustation or adhesion to microbial structures was also observed. Our results show that muscovite sheet is a good model mineral system for examination of microbial colonization and degradation, and this was demonstrated using laboratory and field systems, providing more evidence for the bioweathering significance of fungal activities in the context of silicate degradation and soil formation and development. The approach is also clearly applicable to other rock and mineral-based substrates and a variety of free-living and symbiotic microbial systems.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)323-331
    Number of pages9
    JournalGeomicrobiology Journal
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


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