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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2002 Jan;68(1):20-30.

Grassland management regimens reduce small-scale heterogeneity and species diversity of beta-proteobacterial ammonia pxidizer populations.

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Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, Institute of Medical Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Foresterhill, Aberdeen, AB25 2ZD, United Kingdom.


The impact of soil management practices on ammonia oxidizer diversity and spatial heterogeneity was determined in improved (addition of N fertilizer), unimproved (no additions), and semi-improved (intermediate management) grassland pastures at the Sourhope Research Station in Scotland. Ammonia oxidizer diversity within each grassland soil was assessed by PCR amplification of microbial community DNA with both ammonia oxidizer-specific, 16S rRNA gene (rDNA) and functional, amoA, gene primers. PCR products were analysed by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis, phylogenetic analysis of partial 16S rDNA and amoA sequences, and hybridization with ammonia oxidizer-specific oligonucleotide probes. Ammonia oxidizer populations in unimproved soils were more diverse than those in improved soils and were dominated by organisms representing Nitrosospira clusters 1 and 3 and Nitrosomonas cluster 7 (closely related phylogenetically to Nitrosomonas europaea). Improved soils were only dominated by Nitrosospira cluster 3 and Nitrosomonas cluster 7. These differences were also reflected in functional gene (amoA) diversity, with amoA gene sequences of both Nitrosomonas and Nitrosospira species detected. Replicate 0.5-g samples of unimproved soil demonstrated significant spatial heterogeneity in 16S rDNA-defined ammonia oxidizer clusters, which was reflected in heterogeneity in ammonium concentration and pH. Heterogeneity in soil characteristics and ammonia oxidizer diversity were lower in improved soils. The results therefore demonstrate significant effects of soil management on diversity and heterogeneity of ammonia oxidizer populations that are related to similar changes in relevant soil characteristics.

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