Cold Adapted Nitrosospira sp.: A Potential Crucial Contributor of Ammonia Oxidation in Cryosols of Permafrost-Affected Landscapes in Northeast Siberia


Permafrost-affected landscape soils are rich in organic matter and contain a high fraction of organic nitrogen, but much of this organic matter remains inaccessible due to nitrogen limitation. Microbial nitrification is a key process in the nitrogen cycle, controlling the availability of dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) such as ammonium and nitrate. In this study, we investigate the microbial diversity of canonical nitrifiers and their potential nitrifying activity in the active layer of different Arctic cryosols in the Lena River Delta in North-East Siberia. These cryosols are located on Samoylov Island, which has two geomorphological landscapes with mineral soils in the modern floodplain and organic-rich soils in the low-centered polygonal tundra of the Holocene river terrace. Microcosm incubations show that the highest potential ammonia oxidation rates are found in low organic soils, and the rates depend on organic matter content and quality, vegetation cover, and water content. As shown by 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing, nitrifiers represented 0.6% to 6.2% of the total microbial community. More than 50% of the nitrifiers belonged to the genus Nitrosospira. Based on PCR amoA analysis, ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) were found in nearly all soil types, whereas ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA) were only detected in low-organic soils. In cultivation-based approaches, mainly Nitrosospira-like AOB were enriched and characterized as psychrotolerant, with temperature optima slightly above 20 °C. This study suggests a ubiquitous distribution of ammonia-oxidizing microorganisms (bacteria and archaea) in permafrost-affected landscapes of Siberia with cold-adapted AOB, especially of the genus Nitrosospira, as potentially crucial ammonia oxidizers in the cryosols.
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