Author(s): Hansel CM, Fendorf S, Jardine PM, Francis CA
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Abstract Spatial heterogeneity in physical, chemical, and biological properties of soils allows for the proliferation of diverse microbial communities. Factors influencing the structuring of microbial communities, including availability of nutrients and water, pH, and soil texture, can vary considerably with soil depth and within soil aggregates. Here we investigated changes in the microbial and functional communities within soil aggregates obtained along a soil profile spanning the surface, vadose zone, and saturated soil environments. The composition and diversity of microbial communities and specific functional groups involved in key pathways in the geochemical cycling of nitrogen, Fe, and sulfur were characterized using a coupled approach involving cultivation-independent analysis of both 16S rRNA (bacterial and archaeal) and functional genes (amoA and dsrAB) as well as cultivation-based analysis of Fe(III)-reducing organisms. Here we found that the microbial communities and putative ammonia-oxidizing and Fe(III)-reducing communities varied greatly along the soil profile, likely reflecting differences in carbon availability, water content, and pH. In particular, the Crenarchaeota 16S rRNA sequences are largely unique to each horizon, sharing a distribution and diversity similar to those of the putative (amoA-based) ammonia-oxidizing archaeal community. Anaerobic microenvironments within soil aggregates also appear to allow for both anaerobic- and aerobic-based metabolisms, further highlighting the complexity and spatial heterogeneity impacting microbial community structure and metabolic potential within soils.
This article was published in Appl Environ Microbiol
and referenced in Agrotechnology