Pyrogenic organic matter (PyOM) is assumed to be biochemically recalcitrant, but recent studies indicated a quick decrease of PyOM in post-fire soils. Regardless erosion and abiotic degradation, microbial decomposition has been the explanation for this response, but no direct proof has been provided up to now. In the present study, we were able to demonstrate for the first time that the soil-borne fungus Fusarium oxysporum is not only colonizing the pore system of pyrochar (PyC) but is also involved in the degradation of its aromatic network. We showed that PyC not only stimulates microbial degradation of soil organic matter (SOM), but is also attacked and decomposed by microorganisms. Our observations are based on the chemical and morphological alterations of a sewage-sludge derived PyC produced at 600 °C after its amendment to a Calcic Cambisol by solid-state 13C nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, analytical pyrolysis, elemental analysis, field emission scanning electron microscopy and DNA-based analysis of the isolated fungi. We showed that biofilms detected in the PyC play an essential role in the degradation process. These results are indispensable for a reliable assessment of the carbon sequestration potential of PyC in soils but also for improving global C cycling models. © 2018 The Author(s).
Year of publication: 2018