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mSystems. 2018 Jan 30;3(1). pii: e00214-17. doi: 10.1128/mSystems.00214-17. eCollection 2018 Jan-Feb.

Linking Nitrogen Load to the Structure and Function of Wetland Soil and Rhizosphere Microbial Communities.

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Department of Microbiology, Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
Department of Aquatic Ecology and Environmental Biology, Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary University, London, United Kingdom.
B-WARE Research Centre, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


Wetland ecosystems are important reservoirs of biodiversity and significantly contribute to emissions of the greenhouse gases CO2, N2O, and CH4. High anthropogenic nitrogen (N) inputs from agriculture and fossil fuel combustion have been recognized as a severe threat to biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, such as control of greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, it is important to understand how increased N input into pristine wetlands affects the composition and activity of microorganisms, especially in interaction with dominant wetland plants. In a series of incubations analyzed over 90 days, we disentangled the effects of N fertilization on the microbial community in bulk soil and the rhizosphere of Juncus acutiflorus, a common and abundant graminoid wetland plant. We observed an increase in greenhouse gas emissions when N is increased in incubations with J. acutiflorus, changing the system from a greenhouse gas sink to a source. Using 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing, we determined that the bacterial orders Opitutales, subgroup 6 Acidobacteria, and Sphingobacteriales significantly responded to high N availability. Based on metagenomic data, we hypothesize that these groups are contributing to the increased greenhouse gas emissions. These results indicated that increased N input leads to shifts in microbial activity within the rhizosphere, altering N cycling dynamics. Our study provides a framework for connecting environmental conditions of wetland bulk and rhizosphere soil to the structure and metabolic output of microbial communities. IMPORTANCE Microorganisms living within the rhizospheres of wetland plants significantly contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. Understanding how microbes produce these gases under conditions that have been imposed by human activities (i.e., nitrogen pollution) is important to the development of future management strategies. Our results illustrate that within the rhizosphere of the wetland plant Juncus acutiflorus, physiological differences associated with nitrogen availability can influence microbial activity linked to greenhouse gas production. By pairing taxonomic information and environmental conditions like nitrogen availability with functional outputs of a system such as greenhouse gas fluxes, we present a framework to link certain taxa to both nitrogen load and greenhouse gas production. We view this type of combined information as essential in moving forward in our understanding of complex systems such as rhizosphere microbial communities.


Acidobacteria; Juncus acutiflorus; Opitutales; Sphingobacteriales; greenhouse gas; metagenomics; microbial community function; nitrogen; nitrogen metabolism; wetlands

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