Javascript is not activated in your browser. This website needs javascript activated to work properly.
You are here

Bacterial pH-optima for growth track soil pH, but are higher than expected at low pH

  • David Fernandez-Lopez
  • Johannes Rousk
  • Philip C. Brookes
  • Erland Bååth
Publishing year: 2011
Language: English
Pages: 1569-1575
Publication/Series: Soil Biology & Biochemistry
Volume: 43
Issue: 7
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Elsevier

Abstract english

One of the most influential factors determining the growth and composition of soil bacterial communities is pH. However, soil pH is often correlated with many other factors, including nutrient availability and plant community, and causality among factors is not easily determined. If soil pH is directly influencing the bacterial community, this must lead to a bacterial community growth optimised for the in situ pH. Using one set of Iberian soils (46 soils covering pH 4.2-7.3) and one set of UK grassland soils (16 soils covering pH 3.3-7.5) we measured the pH-optima for the growth of bacterial communities. Bacterial growth was estimated by the leucine incorporation method. The pH-optima for bacterial growth were positively correlated with soil pH, demonstrating its direct influence on the soil bacterial community. We found that the pH from a water extraction better matched the bacterial growth optimum compared with salt extractions of soil. Furthermore, we also showed a more subtle pattern between bacterial pH growth optima and soil pH. While closely matched at neutral pHs, pH-optima became higher than the in situ pH in more acid soils, resulting in a difference of about one pH-unit at the low-pH end. We propose that an explanation for the pattern is an interaction between increasing overall bacterial growth with higher pHs and the unimodal pH-response for growth of bacterial communities. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


  • Biological Sciences
  • Soil acidity
  • pH-tolerance
  • Bacterial growth
  • pH-optima
  • Leucine
  • incorporation


  • Interaction between fungi and bacteria in soil
  • Effect of environmental factors on fungal and bacterial growth in soil
  • Microbial carbon-use efficiency
  • Microbial Ecology
  • ISSN: 0038-0717
JR photo
E-mail: johannes [dot] rousk [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

Senior lecturer


+46 46 222 37 45



Research group


Doctoral students and postdocs

PhD students, main supervisor

Visiting PhD students, main supervisor

PhD students, assistant supervisor


Downloads & links