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Originally published in Applied & Environmental Microbiology, December 2009.



Diversity and abundance of ammonia-oxidizing Betaproteobacteria (β-AOB) and archaea (AOA) were investigated in a New England salt marsh at sites dominated by short or tall Spartina alterniflora (SAS and SAT sites, respectively) or Spartina patens (SP site). AOA amoA gene richness was higher than β-AOB amoA richness at SAT and SP, but AOA and β-AOB richness were similar at SAS. β-AOB amoA clone libraries were composed exclusively of Nitrosospira-like amoA genes. AOA amoA genes at SAT and SP were equally distributed between the water column/sediment and soil/sediment clades, while AOA amoA sequences at SAS were primarily affiliated with the water column/sediment clade. At all three site types, AOA were always more abundant than β-AOB based on quantitative PCR of amoA genes. At some sites, we detected 109 AOA amoA gene copies g of sediment−1. Ratios of AOA to β-AOB varied over 2 orders of magnitude among sites and sampling dates. Nevertheless, abundances of AOA and β-AOB amoA genes were highly correlated. Abundance of 16S rRNA genes affiliated with Nitrosopumilus maritimus, Crenarchaeota group I.1b, and pSL12 were positively correlated with AOA amoA abundance, but ratios of amoA to 16S rRNA genes varied among sites. We also observed a significant effect of pH on AOA abundance and a significant salinity effect on both AOA and β-ΑΟΒ abundance. Our results expand the distribution of AOA to salt marshes, and the high numbers of AOA at some sites suggest that salt marsh sediments serve as an important habitat for AOA.




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