High abundance of ammonia-oxidizing archaea in acidified subtropical forest soils in southern China after long-term N deposition

Kazuo Isobe, Keisuke Koba, Yuichi Suwa, Junko Ikutani, Yunting Fang, Muneoki Yoh, Jiangming Mo, Shigeto Otsuka, Keishi Senoo
FEMS Microbiology Ecology 2012, 80 (1): 193-203
Nitrification has been believed to be performed only by autotrophic ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) and nitrite-oxidizing bacteria (NOB) until the recent discovery of ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA). Meanwhile, it has been questioned whether AOB are significantly responsible for NH(3) oxidation in acidic forest soils. Here, we investigated nitrifying communities and their activity in highly acidified soils of three subtropical forests in southern China that had received chronic high atmospheric N deposition. Nitrifying communities were analyzed using PCR- and culture (most probable number)-based approaches. Nitrification activity was analyzed by measuring gross soil nitrification rates using a (15) N isotope dilution technique. AOB were not detected in the three forest soils: neither via PCR of 16S rRNA and ammonia monooxygenase (amoA) genes nor via culture-based approaches. In contrast, an extraordinary abundance of the putative archaeal amoA was detected (3.2 × 10(8) -1.2 × 10(9)  g soil(-1) ). Moreover, this abundance was correlated with gross soil nitrification rates. This indicates that amoA-possessing archaea rather than bacteria were predominantly responsible for nitrification of the soils. Furthermore, sequences of the genus Nitrospira, a dominant group of soil NOB, were detected. Thus, nitrification of acidified subtropical forest soils in southern China could be performed by a combination of AOA and NOB.

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