Archaeal and bacterial ammonia-oxidisers in soil: the quest for niche specialisation and differentiation

James I. Prosser, Graeme W. Nicol

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review

748 Citations (Scopus)
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Autotrophic archaeal and bacterial ammonia-oxidisers (AOA and AOB) drive soil nitrification. Ammonia limitation, mixotrophy, and pH have been suggested as factors providing niche specialisation and differentiation between soil AOA and AOB. However, current data from genomes, cultures, field studies, and microcosms suggest that no single factor discriminates between AOA and AOB. In addition, there appears to be sufficient physiological diversity within each group for growth and activity in all soils investigated, with the exception of acidic soils (pH <5.5), which are dominated by AOA. Future investigation of niche specialisation in ammonia-oxidisers, and other microbial communities, requires characterisation of a wider range of environmentally representative cultures, emphasis on experimental studies rather than surveys, and greater consideration of small-scale soil heterogeneity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)523-531
Number of pages9
JournalTrends in Microbiology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012


  • ammonia-oxidising archaea
  • ammonia-oxidising bacteria
  • nitrification
  • niche specialisation
  • niche differentiation
  • soil pH
  • mixotrophy


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