Chemical and physical mechanisms of fungal bioweathering of rock phosphate

Gilberto de Oliveira Mendes, Jaleh Bahri-Esfahani, Laszlo Csetenyi, Stephen Hillier, Timothy S. George, Geoffrey Michael Gadd (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
89 Downloads (Pure)


This research has investigated fungal transformations of rock phosphate (RP) by geoactive fungi, with particular emphasis on Aspergillus niger. Direct hyphal interaction with RP particles induced morphological and mineralogical changes, as revealed by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and X-ray diffraction (XRD) analysis. The formation of the oxalate mineral calcium oxalate monohydrate (whewellite, CaC2O4·H2O) on RP surfaces showed that mycogenic oxalic acid was driving the chemical dissolution of apatite, with consequent phosphate release and secondary mineral formation. This was supported by abiotic testing of common fungal excreted organic acids which confirmed that oxalic acid was the only effective RP transforming agent and therefore responsible for the morphological and mineralogical changes observed in RP when exposed to fungal colonization. Cryogenic SEM provided evidence of fungal penetration and tunneling through RP particles demonstrating that physical interactions are also important for RP bioweathering, as well as biochemical mechanisms. These findings emphasize the important role of fungi in P cycling, with active participation in the transformation of mineral phosphates through physicochemical mechanisms and secondary oxalate biomineral formation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)384-394
Number of pages11
JournalGeomicrobiology Journal
Issue number5
Early online date30 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Aspergillus niger
  • calcium oxalate
  • fungi
  • oxalic acid
  • rock phosphate
  • whewellite

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Environmental Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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