We attempted to reconcile three microbial maintenance models (Herbert, Pirt, and Compromise) through a theoretical reassessment. We provided a rigorous proof that the true growth yield coefficient (YG) is the ratio of the specific maintenance rate (a in Herbert) to the maintenance coefficient (m in Pirt). Other findings from this study include: (1) the Compromise model is identical to the Herbert for computing microbial growth and substrate consumption, but it expresses the dependence of maintenance on both microbial biomass and substrate; (2) the maximum specific growth rate in the Herbert (lmax,H) is higher than those in the other two models (lmax,P and lmax,C), and the difference is the physiological maintenance factor (mq = a); and (3) the overall maintenance coefficient (mT) is more sensitive to mq than to the specific growth rate (lG) and YG. Our critical reassessment of microbial maintenance provides a new approach for quantifying some important components in soil microbial ecology models.

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Gangsheng Wang
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ORNL, Environmental Sciences Division
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