An Improved Method For Measuring Soil Microbial Activity By Gas Phase Flow Injection Analysis
The rate of carbon dioxide production is commonly used as a measure of microbial activity in the soil. The traditional method of CO2 determination involves trapping CO2 in an alkali solution and then determining CO2 concentration indirectly by titration of the remaining alkali in the solution. This method is still commonly employed in laboratories throughout the world due to its relative simplicity and the fact that it does not require expensive, specific equipment. However, there are several drawbacks: the method is time-consuming, requires large amounts of chemicals and the consistency of results depends on the operator's skills. With this in mind, an improved method was developed to analyze CO2 captured in alkali traps, which is cheap and relatively simple, with a substantially shorter sample handling time and reproducibility equivalent to the traditional titration method. A comparison of the concentration values determined by gas phase flow injection analysis (GPFIA) and titration showed no significant difference (p > 0.05), but GPFIA has the advantage that only a tenth of the sample volume of the titration method is required. The GPFIA system does not require the purchase of new, costly equipment but the device was constructed from items commonly found in laboratories, with suggestions for alternative configurations for other detection units. Furthermore, GPFIA for CO2 analysis can be equally applied to samples obtained from either the headspace of microcosms or from a sampling chamber that allows CO2 to be released from alkali trapping solutions. The optimised GPFIA method was applied to analyse CO2 released from degrading hydrocarbons from a site contaminated by diesel spillage.