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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2006 Feb;72(2):1346-54.

Differential effects of nitrogenous fertilizers on methane-consuming microbes in rice field and forest soils.

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Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology, Department of Biogeochemistry, Karl-von-Frisch-Str., 35043 Marburg, Germany.


The impact of environmental perturbation (e.g., nitrogenous fertilizers) on the dynamics of methane fluxes from soils and wetland systems is poorly understood. Results of fertilizer studies are often contradictory, even within similar ecosystems. In the present study the hypothesis of whether these contradictory results may be explained by the composition of the methane-consuming microbial community and hence whether methanotrophic diversity affects methane fluxes was investigated. To this end, rice field and forest soils were incubated in microcosms and supplemented with different nitrogenous fertilizers and methane concentrations. By labeling the methane with 13C, diversity and function could be coupled by analyses of phospholipid-derived fatty acids (PLFA) extracted from the soils at different time points during incubation. In both rice field and forest soils, the activity as well as the growth rate of methane-consuming bacteria was affected differentially. For type I methanotrophs, fertilizer application stimulated the consumption of methane and the subsequent growth, while type II methanotrophs were generally inhibited. Terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism analyses of the pmoA gene supported the PLFA results. Multivariate analyses of stable-isotope-probing PLFA profiles indicated that in forest and rice field soils, Methylocystis (type II) species were affected by fertilization. The type I methanotrophs active in forest soils (Methylomicrobium/Methylosarcina related) differed from the active species in rice field soils (Methylobacter/Methylomonas related). Our results provide a case example showing that microbial community structure indeed matters, especially when assessing and predicting the impact of environmental change on biodiversity loss and ecosystem functioning.

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