We report the first attempt to estimate fungal biomass production in soil by correlating relative fungal growth rates (i.e., acetate incorporation into ergosterol) with fungal biomass increase (i.e., ergosterol) following amendments with dried alfalfa or barley straw in soil. The conversion factor obtained was then used in unamended soil, resulting in fungal biomass productions of 10–12 μg C g−1 soil, yielding fungal turnover times between 130 and 150 days. Using a conversion factor from alfalfa-treated soil only resulted in two times higher estimates for biomass production and consequently lower turnover times. Comparing fungal biomass production with basal respiration indicated that these calculations overestimated the former. Still, the turnover times of fungal biomass in soil were in the same range as turnover times estimated in aquatic systems. The slow turnover of fungal biomass contrasts with the short turnover times found for bacteria. The study thus presents empirical data substantiating the theoretical division of bacteria and fungi into a fast and a slow energy channel, respectively, in the soil food web.
Effect of environmental factors on fungal and bacterial growth in soil