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ISME J. 2012 Jun;6(6):1115-26. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2011.179. Epub 2011 Dec 22.

Linking activity, composition and seasonal dynamics of atmospheric methane oxidizers in a meadow soil.

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Department of Biogeochemistry, Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology, Marburg, Germany.


Microbial oxidation is the only biological sink for atmospheric methane. We assessed seasonal changes in atmospheric methane oxidation and the underlying methanotrophic communities in grassland near Giessen (Germany), along a soil moisture gradient. Soil samples were taken from the surface layer (0-10 cm) of three sites in August 2007, November 2007, February 2008 and May 2008. The sites showed seasonal differences in hydrological parameters. Net uptake rates varied seasonally between 0 and 70 μg CH(4) m(-2) h(-1). Greatest uptake rates coincided with lowest soil moisture in spring and summer. Over all sites and seasons, the methanotrophic communities were dominated by uncultivated methanotrophs. These formed a monophyletic cluster defined by the RA14, MHP and JR1 clades, referred to as upland soil cluster alphaproteobacteria (USCα)-like group. The copy numbers of pmoA genes ranged between 3.8 × 10(5)-1.9 × 10(6) copies g(-1) of soil. Temperature was positively correlated with CH(4) uptake rates (P<0.001), but had no effect on methanotrophic population dynamics. The soil moisture was negatively correlated with CH(4) uptake rates (P<0.001), but showed a positive correlation with changes in USCα-like diversity (P<0.001) and pmoA gene abundance (P<0.05). These were greatest at low net CH(4) uptake rates during winter times and coincided with an overall increase in bacterial 16S rRNA gene abundances (P<0.05). Taken together, soil moisture had a significant but opposed effect on CH(4) uptake rates and methanotrophic population dynamics, the latter being increasingly stimulated by soil moisture contents >50 vol% and primarily related to members of the MHP clade.

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