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The contribution of ammonia-oxidizing bacteria and archaea (AOB and AOA, respectively) to the net oxidation of ammonia varies greatly between terrestrial environments. To better understand, predict and possibly manage terrestrial nitrogen turnover, we need to develop a conceptual understanding of ammonia oxidation as a function of environmental conditions including the ecophysiology of associated organisms. We examined the discrete and combined effects of mineral nitrogen deposition and geothermal heating on ammonia-oxidizing communities by sampling soils from a long-term fertilization site along a temperature gradient in Icelandic grasslands. Microarray, clone library and quantitative PCR analyses of the ammonia monooxygenase subunit A (amoA) gene accompanied by physico-chemical measurements of the soil properties were conducted. In contrast to most other terrestrial environments, the ammonia-oxidizing communities consisted almost exclusively of archaea. Their bacterial counterparts proved to be undetectable by quantitative polymerase chain reaction suggesting AOB are only of minor relevance for ammonia oxidation in these soils. Our results show that fertilization and local, geothermal warming affected detectable ammonia-oxidizing communities, but not soil chemistry: only a subset of the detected AOA phylotypes was present in higher temperature soils and AOA abundance was increased in the fertilized soils, while soil physio-chemical properties remained unchanged. Differences in distribution and structure of AOA communities were best explained by soil pH and clay content irrespective of temperature or fertilizer treatment in these grassland soils, suggesting that these factors have a greater potential for ecological niche-differentiation of AOA in soil than temperature and N fertilization.
Original languageEnglish
Article number00352
Number of pages14
JournalFrontiers in microbiology
Journal publication date2012

ID: 294245