Microbial metabolism mediates interactions between dissolved organic matter and clay minerals in streamwater
Sorption of organic molecules to mineral surfaces is an important control upon the aquatic carbon (C) cycle. Organo-mineral interactions are known to regulate the transport and burial of C within inland waters, yet the mechanisms that underlie these processes are poorly constrained. Streamwater contains a complex and dynamic mix of dissolved organic compounds that coexists with a range of organic and inorganic particles and microorganisms. To test how microbial metabolism and organo-mineral complexation alter amino acid and organic carbon fluxes we experimented with 13C-labelled amino acids and two common clay minerals (kaolinite and montmorillonite). The addition of 13C-labelled amino acids stimulated increased microbial activity. Amino acids were preferentially mineralized by the microbial community, concomitant with the leaching of other (non-labelled) dissolved organic molecules that were removed from solution by clay-mediated processes. We propose that microbial processes mediate the formation of organo-mineral particles in streamwater, with potential implications for the biochemical composition of organic matter transported through and buried within fluvial environments.