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Use and misuse of PLFA measurements in soils

  • Asa Frostegard
  • Anders Tunlid
  • Erland Bååth
Publishing year: 2011
Language: English
Pages: 1621-1625
Publication/Series: Soil Biology & Biochemistry
Volume: 43
Issue: 8
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Elsevier

Abstract english

The determination of the phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) pattern of soil organisms has become one of the most commonly used methods to study microbial community structure. Here we recapitulate the background of our work applying the PLFA method to soil in the early 1990s. We also stress that although the PLFA method was, and still is, a rapid and sensitive method to detect changes in the microbial community in soil, as with all popular methods it can be misused. We discuss problems in PLFA interpretation, the extent of turn-over of PLFAs in soil, and the flawed use of diversity indices to evaluate PLFA patterns. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


  • Biological Sciences
  • Soil
  • Community structure
  • PLFA
  • NLFA
  • Heavy metals
  • pH


  • BECC
  • Microbial Ecology
  • ISSN: 0038-0717
Erland Bååth
E-mail: erland [dot] baath [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

Professor emeritus


+46 46 222 42 64


Sölvegatan 37, Lund