Links between seawater flooding, soil ammonia oxidiser communities and their response to changes in salinity

Heiko Nacke, Ingo Schöning, Malte Schindler, Marion Schrumpf, Rolf Daniel, Graeme W Nicol, James I Prosser

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8 Citations (Scopus)
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Coastal areas worldwide are challenged by climate change-associated increases in sea level and storm surge quantities that potentially lead to more frequent flooding of soil ecosystems. Currently, little is known of the effects of inundation events on microorganisms controlling nitrification in these ecosystems. The goal of this study was to investigate the impact of seawater flooding on the abundance, community composition and salinity tolerance of soil ammonia oxidisers. Topsoil was sampled from three islands flooded at different frequencies by the Wadden Sea. Archaeal ammonia oxidiser amoA genes were more abundant than their betaproteobacterial counterparts, and the distribution of archaeal and bacterial ammonia oxidiser amoA and 16S rRNA gene sequences significantly differed between the islands. The findings indicate selection of ammonia oxidiser phylotypes with greater tolerance to high salinity and slightly alkaline pH (e.g. Nitrosopumilus representatives) in frequently flooded soils. A cluster phylogenetically related to gammaproteobacterial ammonia oxidisers was detected in all samples analysed in this survey. Nevertheless, no gammaprotebacterial amoA genes could be amplified via PCR and only betaproteobacterial ammonia oxidisers were detected in enrichment cultures. A slurry-based experiment demonstrated the tolerance of both bacterial and archaeal ammonia oxidisers to a wide range of salinities (e.g. Wadden Sea water salinity) in soil naturally exposed to seawater at a high frequency.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberfix144
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalFEMS Microbiology Ecology
Issue number11
Early online date24 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017

Bibliographical note

We thank Heather Richmond and Mechthild Bömeke for providing excellent technical assistance. In addition, we thank Jessica Heublein for support with respect to basic soil analyses and Laura Lehtovirta-Morley for useful discussion on cultivation of AO. We also thank Ruth Hartwig-Kruse, Michael Kliesch and the team of the ‘Schutzstation Wattenmeer Langeness’ for support during sampling.

This work was financially supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) (NA 848/1-1).


  • Journal Article
  • ammonia-oxidising archaea
  • ammonia-oxidising bacteria
  • nitrification
  • flooding
  • salinity
  • nitrosococcus


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