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FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2013 Jun;84(3):474-94. doi: 10.1111/1574-6941.12079. Epub 2013 Feb 19.

The relative contribution of methanotrophs to microbial communities and carbon cycling in soil overlying a coal-bed methane seep.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry and Geochemistry, Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO, USA.


Seepage of coal-bed methane (CBM) through soils is a potential source of atmospheric CH4 and also a likely source of ancient (i.e. (14) C-dead) carbon to soil microbial communities. Natural abundance (13) C and (14) C compositions of bacterial membrane phospholipid fatty acids (PLFAs) and soil gas CO2 and CH4 were used to assess the incorporation of CBM-derived carbon into methanotrophs and other members of the soil microbial community. Concentrations of type I and type II methanotroph PLFA biomarkers (16:1ω8c and 18:1ω8c, respectively) were elevated in CBM-impacted soils compared with a control site. Comparison of PLFA and 16s rDNA data suggested type I and II methanotroph populations were well estimated and overestimated by their PLFA biomarkers, respectively. The δ(13) C values of PLFAs common in type I and II methanotrophs were as negative as -67‰ and consistent with the assimilation of CBM. PLFAs more indicative of nonmethanotrophic bacteria had δ(13) C values that were intermediate indicating assimilation of both plant- and CBM-derived carbon. Δ(14) C values of select PLFAs (-351 to -936‰) indicated similar patterns of CBM assimilation by methanotrophs and nonmethanotrophs and were used to estimate that 35-91% of carbon assimilated by nonmethanotrophs was derived from CBM depending on time of sampling and soil depth.

© 2013 Federation of European Microbiological Societies. Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd. All rights reserved.

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