, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 1-18

Mineralogy of the rhizosphere in forest soils of the eastern United States

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Chemical and mineralogical studies of forest soils from six sites in the northeastern and southeastern United States indicate that soil in the immediate vicinity of roots and fine root masses may show marked differences in physical characteristics, mineralogy and weathering compared to the bulk of the forest soil. Examination of rhizosphere and rhizoplane soils revealed that mineral grains within these zones are affected mechanically, chemically and mineralogically by the invading root bodies. In SEM/EDS analyses, phyllosilicate grains adjacent to roots commonly aligned with their long axis tangential to the root surface. Numerous mineral grains were also observed for which the edge abutting a root surface was significantly more fractured than the rest of the grain. Both the alignment and fracturing of mineral grains by growing roots may influence pedogenic processes within the rhizosphere by exposing more mineral surface to weathering in the root-zone microenvironment. Chemical interactions between roots and rhizosphere minerals included precipitation of amorphous aluminium oxides, opaline and amorphous silica, and calcium oxalate within the cells of mature roots and possible preferential dissolution of mineral grains adjacent to root bodies. Mineralogical analyses using X-ray diffraction (XRD) techniques indicated that kaolin minerals in some rhizosphere samples had a higher thermal stability than kaolin in the surrounding bulk forest soil. In addition, XRD analyses of clay minerals from one of the southeastern sites showed abundant muscovite in rhizoplane soil adhering to root surfaces whereas both muscovite and degraded mica were present in the immediately surrounding rhizosphere soil. This difference in mineral assemblages may be due to either K-enrichment in rhizoplane soil solutions or the preferential dissolution of biotite at the root-soil interface