Differential response of non-adapted ammonia oxidising archaea and bacteria to drying rewetting stress

Cécile Thion, James I Prosser

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62 Citations (Scopus)
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Climate change is expected to increase the frequency of severe drought events followed by heavy rainfall, which will influence growth and activity of soil microorganisms, through osmotic stress and changes in nutrient concentration. There is evidence of rapid recovery of processes and adaptation of communities in soils regularly experiencing drying/rewetting and lower resistance and resilience in non-adapted soils. A microcosm-based study of ammonia-oxidising archaea (AOA) and bacteria (AOB), employing a grassland soil that rarely experiences drought, was used to test this hypothesis and also whether AOB were more resistant and resilient, through greater tolerance of high ammonia concentrations produced during drought and rewetting. Treated soils were dried, incubated for three weeks, rewetted, incubated for a further three weeks and compared to untreated soils, maintained at a constant moisture content. Nitrate accumulation and AOA and AOB abundance (abundance of respective amoA genes) and community composition (DGGE analysis of AOA amoA and AOB 16S rRNA genes) were poorly adapted to drying-rewetting. AOA abundance and community composition were less resistant than AOB during drought and less resilient after rewetting, at times when ammonium concentration was higher. Data provide evidence for poor adaptation of microbial communities and processes to drying-rewetting in soils with no history of drought and indicate niche differentiation of AOA and AOB associated with high ammonia concentration. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)380-389
Number of pages10
JournalFEMS Microbiology Ecology
Issue number2
Early online date15 Sept 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2014

Bibliographical note

We would like to acknowledge funding of the European Commission's FP7 programme, EU-project ‘EcoFINDERS’ No. 264465. The authors also wish to thank Dr Franciska De Vries and Professor Richard Bardgett, University of Manchester and Prof Paul Hallett, University of Aberdeen, for their valuable comments and advice.


  • ammonia oxidising archaea
  • Ammonia oxidising bacteria
  • nitrification
  • drought
  • rewetting
  • resistance
  • resilience


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