Rapid and dissimilar response of ammonia oxidizing archaea and bacteria to nitrogen and water amendment in two temperate forest soils

Ute Szukics, Evelyn Hackl, Sophie Zechmeister-Boltenstern, Angela Sessitsch
Microbiological Research 2012 January 20, 167 (2): 103-9
Biochemical processes relevant to soil nitrogen (N) cycling are performed by soil microorganisms affiliated with diverse phylogenetic groups. For example, the oxidation of ammonia, representing the first step of nitrification, can be performed by ammonia oxidizing bacteria (AOB) and, as recently reported, also by ammonia oxidizing archaea (AOA). However, the contribution to ammonia oxidation of the phylogenetically separated AOA versus AOB and their respective responsiveness to environmental factors are still poorly understood. The present study aims at comparing the capacity of AOA and AOB to momentarily respond to N input and increased soil moisture in two contrasting forest soils. Soils from the pristine Rothwald forest and the managed Schottenwald forest were amended with either NH(4)(+)-N or NO(3)(-)-N and were incubated at 40% and 70% water-filled pore space (WFPS) for four days. Nitrification rates were measured and AOA and AOB abundance and community composition were determined via quantitative PCR (qPCR) and terminal restriction length fragment polymorphism (T-RFLP) analysis of bacterial and archaeal amoA genes. Our study reports rapid and distinct changes in AOA and AOB abundances in the two forest soils in response to N input and increased soil moisture but no significant effects on net nitrification rates. Functional microbial communities differed significantly in the two soils and responded specifically to the treatments during the short-term incubation. In the Rothwald soil the abundance and community composition of AOA were affected by the water content, whereas AOB communities responded to N amendment. In the Schottenwald soil, by contrast, AOA responded to N addition. These results suggest that AOA and AOB may be selectively influenced by soil and management factors.

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