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Traditional cattle manure application determines abundance, diversity and activity of methanogenic Archaea in arable European soil.Based on lipid analyses, 16S rRNA/rRNA gene single-strand conformation polymorphism fingerprints and methane flux measurements, influences of the fertilization regime on abundance and diversity of archaeal communities were investigated in soil samples from the long-term (103 years) field trial in Bad Lauchstädt, Germany. The investigated plots followed a gradient of increasing fertilization beginning at no fertilization and ending at the 'cattle manure' itself. The archaeal phospholipid etherlipid (PLEL) concentration was used as an indicator for archaeal biomass and increased with the gradient of increasing fertilization, whereby the concentrations determined for organically fertilized soils were well above previously reported values. Methane emission, although at a low level, were occasionally only observed in organically fertilized soils, whereas the other treatments showed significant methane uptake. Euryarchaeotal organisms were abundant in all investigated samples but 16S rRNA analysis also demonstrated the presence of Crenarchaeota in fertilized soils. Lowest molecular archaeal diversity was found in highest fertilized treatments. Archaea phylogenetically most closely related to cultured methanogens were abundant in these fertilized soils, whereas Archaea with low relatedness to cultured microorganisms dominated in non-fertilized soils. Relatives of Methanoculleus spp. were found almost exclusively in organically fertilized soils or cattle manure. Methanosarcina-related microorganisms were detected in all soils as well as in the cattle manure, but soils with highest organic application rate were specifically dominated by a close phylogenetic relative of Methanosarcina thermophila. Our findings suggest that regular application of cattle manure increased archaeal biomass, but reduced archaeal diversity and selected for methanogenic Methanoculleus and Methanosarcina strains, leading to the circumstance that high organic fertilized soils did not function as a methane sink at the investigated site anymore.