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Research article2011Peer reviewedOpen access

Spatial distribution of ammonia-oxidizing bacteria and archaea across a 44-hectare farm related to ecosystem functioning

Wessén, Ella; Söderström, Mats; Stenberg, Maria; Bru, David; Hellman, Maria; Welch, Allana; Thomsen, Frida; Klemedtson, Leif; Philippot, Laurent; Hallin, Sara Gates


Characterization of spatial patterns of functional microbial communities could facilitate the understanding of the relationships between the ecology of microbial communities, the biogeochemical processes they perform and the corresponding ecosystem functions. Because of the important role the ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) and archaea (AOA) have in nitrogen cycling and nitrate leaching, we explored the spatial distribution of their activity, abundance and community composition across a 44-ha large farm divided into an organic and an integrated farming system. The spatial patterns were mapped by geostatistical modeling and correlations to soil properties and ecosystem functioning in terms of nitrate leaching were determined. All measured community components for both AOB and AOA exhibited spatial patterns at the hectare scale. The patchy patterns of community structures did not reflect the farming systems, but the AOB community was weakly related to differences in soil pH and moisture, whereas the AOA community to differences in soil pH and clay content. Soil properties related differently to the size of the communities, with soil organic carbon and total nitrogen correlating positively to AOB abundance, while clay content and pH showed a negative correlation to AOA abundance. Contrasting spatial patterns were observed for the abundance distributions of the two groups indicating that the AOB and AOA may occupy different niches in agro-ecosystems. In addition, the two communities correlated differently to community and ecosystem functions. Our results suggest that the AOA, not the AOB, were contributing to nitrate leaching at the site by providing substrate for the nitrite oxidizers. The ISME Journal (2011) 5, 1213-1225; doi:10.1038/ismej.2010.206; published online 13 January 2011 Subject Category: microbial ecology and functional diversity of natural habitats


agricultural soil; ammonia oxidation; amoA; AOA; AOB; nitrate leaching

Published in

ISME Journal
2011, Volume: 5, number: 7, pages: 1213-1225 Publisher: NATURE PUBLISHING GROUP