The activity of nitrifying microorganisms in a high-altitude Andean wetland

Verónica Molina, Cristina Dorador, Camila Fernández, Laura Bristow, Yoanna Eissler, Martha Hengst, Klaudia Hernandez, Lasse Mork Olsen, Chris Harrod, Francisca Marchant, Cristobal Anguita, Marcela Cornejo

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17 Scopus citations


High-altitude wetland holds freshwater springs, evaporitic ponds and lagoon with variable salinity and nutrients, potentially influencing the ecology of nitrifying communities. In this study, nitrifying microorganisms in Salar de Huasco (Chile) were surveyed to determine bacterial and archaeal contribution to ammonium (AO), nitrite oxidation (NO), ammonium uptake (AU) during wet and dry seasons. The activity signals from these groups were assessed by specific amoA-qPCR transcription, 15N tracer studies and addition of group specific inhibitor experiments for nitrifying microorganisms (N1-guanyl-1, 7-diaminoheptane [GC7]-archaeal specific and allylthiourea [ATU]-bacterial specific). Nitrifying communities, i.e. Nitrosopumilus, Nitrosospira, Nitrosomonas, Kuenenia and Nitrospira, were more frequent (∼0.25% of 16S rRNA sequences) at low salinity sites. Bacterial amoA-qPCR transcripts also increased at low salinity and along in situ ammonium increase observed between wet/dry seasons. Nutrient changes through time and 15N tracer experiments results showed that AO and NO were detected and peaked mainly at low salinity-high ammonium sites (<37 000 μS cmâˆ'1 and >0.3 μM), whereas AU was predominant at evaporitic sites. Our results indicate that salinity and ammonium affect the nitrifying communities that are potentially more active at low-salinity sites but persistent at saltier evaporitic areas of the wetland when ammonium is available.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberfiy062
JournalFEMS Microbiology Ecology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2018


  • AOA
  • AOB
  • Ammonia-oxidation
  • Nitrifier diversity
  • Nitrite-oxidation
  • Salinity


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