Pedogenic calcite in desert soils has become increasingly important as an indicator of paleoclimate, landscape stability, and landscape age. This study indicates that calcic and petrocalcic horizons in desert soils are not simply the result of inorganic precipitation of calcite. Soil microorganisms were found to be involved in calcite precipitation in a typical desert soil near Las Cruces, New Mexico. Fossilized remains of calcified fungal hyphae and Microcodium structures are abundant in the petrocalcic horizon. Soil bacteria and fungi precipitated calcite when cultured on a Ca-rich medium. In an experiment where soil columns were irrigated with Ca-rich solutions, calcite formed in soils containing soil microorganisms, but no calcite formed in sterile soils. Thus, biomineralization of calcite by soil microorganisms appears to be an important mechanism of unknown magnitude.

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