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Extensive nitrification and active ammonia oxidizers in two contrasting coastal systems of the Baltic Sea

Happel, Elisabeth, Bartl, Ines, Voss, Maren, Riemann, Lasse
Environmental microbiology 2018 v.20 no.8 pp. 2913-2926
Archaea, ammonia, ammonia monooxygenase, aquatic environment, bacteria, coasts, denitrification, estuaries, food webs, forests, gene expression, genes, nitrification, nitrogen, nitrogen cycle, oxidants, phylotype, rivers, storms, watersheds, Baltic Sea
Nitrification is important in nitrogen (N) cycling of aquatic environments, but knowledge about its regulation and importance is sparse. Here we examined nitrification and ammonia oxidizers in the Baltic Sea. We investigated two sites with different catchment characteristics (agricultural and forest), the Bay of Gdánsk (south) and the Öre Estuary (north), and measured pelagic nitrification rates and abundance, composition and expression of ammonia monooxygenase (amoA) genes. Highest nitrification rates were found in the nutrient rich Bay of Gdańsk. Interestingly, abundances of ammonia‐oxidizing archaea (AOA) and bacteria (AOB) were orders of magnitude lower than reported from other sites. Although AOA were most abundant at both sites, the highest expression levels were from AOB. Interestingly, few AOA and AOB taxa dominated amoA gene expression, with a Nitrosomarinus related phylotype showing widespread expression. AOA and AOB communities differed between sites and depths, respectively, with the composition in rivers being distinct. A storm event, causing an even depth distribution of nitrification and particles in the Bay of Gdańsk, indicated that the presence of particles stimulate nitrification. The study highlights coastal regions as dynamic sites of extensive pelagic nitrification, which may affect local food web dynamics and loss of N mediated by denitrification.