Ammonium supply rate influences archaeal and bacterial ammonia oxidizers in a wetland soil vertical profile

Špela Höfferle, Graeme W Nicol, Levin Pal, Janez Hacin, James I Prosser, Ines Mandic-Mulec

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Citations (Scopus)


Oxidation of ammonia, the first step in nitrification, is carried out in soil by bacterial and archaeal ammonia oxidizers and recent studies suggest possible selection for the latter in low-ammonium environments. In this study, we investigated the selection of ammonia-oxidizing archaea and bacteria in wetland soil vertical profiles at two sites differing in terms of the ammonium supply rate, but not significantly in terms of the groundwater level. One site received ammonium through decomposition of organic matter, while the second, polluted site received a greater supply, through constant leakage of an underground septic tank. Soil nitrification potential was significantly greater at the polluted site. Quantification of amoA genes demonstrated greater abundance of bacterial than archaeal amoA genes throughout the soil profile at the polluted site, whereas bacterial amoA genes at the unpolluted site were below the detection limit. At both sites, archaeal, but not the bacterial community structure was clearly stratified with depth, with regard to the soil redox potential imposed by groundwater level. However, depth-related changes in the archaeal community structure may also be associated with physiological functions other than ammonia oxidation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)302-315
Number of pages14
JournalFEMS Microbiology Ecology
Issue number2
Early online date4 Aug 2010
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010


  • ammonia
  • archaea
  • bacteria
  • biodegradation, environmental
  • DNA, archaeal
  • DNA, bacterial
  • nitrification
  • oxidation-reduction
  • phylogeny
  • polymorphism, restriction fragment length
  • quaternary ammonium compounds
  • soil microbiology
  • soil pollutants
  • wetlands


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