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Microb Ecol. 2010 Feb;59(2):253-65. doi: 10.1007/s00248-009-9558-0. Epub 2009 Jul 22.

Seasonal variability of diazotroph assemblages associated with the rhizosphere of the salt marsh cordgrass, Spartina alterniflora.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208, USA.


Nitrogen fixation is the primary N source in the highly productive but N-limited North Inlet, SC, USA salt marsh system. The diverse assemblages of nitrogen-fixing (diazotrophic) bacteria associated with the rhizospheres of the short and tall growth forms of Spartina alterniflora were analyzed at two sites, Crab Haul Creek and Goat Island, which are in different tidal creek drainage systems in this marsh. The sites differed in proximity to the main channel for tidal intrusion and in several edaphic parameters. We hypothesized that either the differing abiotic environmental regimes of the two sites or the variation due to seasonal effects result in differences in the diazotroph assemblage. Rhizosphere samples were collected seasonally during 1999 and 2000. DNA was purified and nifH amplified for denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) analysis of diazotroph assemblage composition. Principal components analysis was used to analyze the binary DGGE band position data. Season strongly influenced assemblage composition and biplots were used to identify bands that significantly affected the seasonal and site-specific clustering. The types of organisms that were most responsive to seasonal or site variability were identified on the basis of DGGE band sequences. Seasonally responsive members of the anaerobic diazotrophs were detected during the winter and postsenescence conditions and may have been responsible for elevated pore water sulfide concentrations. Sequences from a diverse assemblage of Gammaproteobacteria were predominant during growth periods of S. alterniflora. Abiotic environmental parameters strongly influenced both the S. alterniflora and the diazotrophic bacterial assemblages associated with this keystone salt marsh plant species.

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