The Ability of Soil Pore Network Metrics to Predict Redox Dynamics Is Scale Dependent
Variations in microbial community structure and metabolic efficiency are governed in part by oxygen availability, which is a function of water content, diffusion distance, and oxygen demand; for this reason, the volume, connectivity, and geometry of soil pores may exert primary controls on spatial metabolic diversity in soil. Here, we combine quantitative pore network metrics derived from X-ray computed tomography (XCT) with measurements of electromotive potentials to assess how the metabolic status of soil depends on variations of the overall pore network architecture. Contrasting pore network architectures were generated using a Mollisol—A horizon, and compared to intact control samples from the same soil. Mesocosms from each structural treatment were instrumented with Pt-electrodes to record available energy dynamics during a regimen of varying moisture conditions. We found that volume-based XCT-metrics were more frequently correlated with metrics describing changes in available energy than medial-axis XCT-metrics. An abundance of significant correlations between pore network metrics and available energy parameters was not only a function of pore architecture, but also of the dimensions of the sub-sample chosen for XCT analysis. Pore network metrics had the greatest power to statistically explain changes in available energy in
the smallest volumes analyzed. Our work underscores the importance of scale in observations of natural systems.