Microorganisms need electrons for everything they do. If they consume nutrients or spew out methane or expel carbon dioxide – for any living, biological process – they need electrons.
Amending the soil with pyrogenic carbon – known as biochar – brings high definition to the electron network. In turn, the electrons spur conductive networks and growth.
Lehmann and the members of his laboratory had struggled to understand why microorganisms thrived in the presence of biochar. The group removed soil phosphorus, making the environment inhospitable. They ruled out water and nutrients. They discarded the use of biochar as a food source because microorganisms cannot consume much of it. Through Sun’s background in environmental chemistry, the scientists found that microorganisms may be drawn to electrons that the biochar can transport.
Other research has shown that long-term ecosystem succession is caused by an increase in the connectivity of the ecosystem, and as carbon builds in soils this aids that process.