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Originally published in Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 88(1) June 10, 2010


Ever since the first descriptions of ammonia-oxidizing Bacteria by Winogradsky in the late 1800s, the metabolic capability of aerobic ammonia oxidation has been restricted to a phylogenetically narrow group of bacteria. However, the recent discovery of ammonia-oxidizing Archaea has forced microbiologists and ecologists to re-evaluate long-held paradigms and the role of niche partitioning between bacterial and archaeal ammonia oxidizers. Much of the current research has been conducted in open ocean or terrestrial systems, where community patterns of archaeal and bacterial ammonia oxidizers are highly congruent. Studies of archaeal and bacterial ammonia oxidizers in estuarine systems, however, present a very different picture, with highly variable patterns of archaeal and bacterial ammonia oxidizer abundances. Although salinity is often identified as an important factor regulating abundance, distribution, and diversity of both archaeal and bacterial ammonia oxidizers, the data suggest that the variability in the observed patterns is likely not due to a simple salinity effect. Here we review current knowledge of ammonia oxidizers in estuaries and propose that because of their steep physico-chemical gradients, estuaries may serve as important natural laboratories in which to investigate the relationships between archaeal and bacterial ammonia oxidizers.




The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author.