Interactions between Nitrogen Fixation and Methane Cycling in Northern Minnesota Peat Bogs

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Melissa Jan Warren1, John Christian Gaby1, Xueju Lin1, Peter L Morton2, Joel E Kostka1 and Jennifer B Glass1, (1)Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, United States, (2)Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL, United States
Peatlands cover only 3% of the Earth’s surface, yet store a third of soil carbon. Increasing global temperatures have the potential to change peatlands from a net sink to a net source of atmospheric carbon. N is a limiting nutrient in oligotrophic Sphagnum-dominated peatlands and biological N2 fixation likely supplies a significant but unknown fraction of N inputs. Moreover, environmental controls on diazotrophic community composition in N-limited peatlands are poorly constrained. Thus, improved understanding of feedbacks between the CH4 and N cycles is critical for predicting future changes to CH4 flux from peat bogs. We coupled measurements of N2 fixation activity measured by the acetylene (C2H2) reduction assay (ARA) with molecular analyses of expression and diversity of nifH genes encoding the molybdenum (Mo)-containing nitrogenase from two peat bogs in the Marcell Experimental Forest, Minnesota, USA. The top 10 cm of peat was sampled from the high CH4 flux S1 bog and the low CH4 flux Zim bog in April and June 2014. Despite similar N concentrations in the top 10 cm of both bogs (0.5-1.0 µM NO2-+NO3- and 2-3 µM NH4+), the S1 bog displayed variable ARA activity (1-100 nmol C2H4 h-1 g-1) whereas the Zim bog had consistently low ARA activity (<1 nmol C2H4 h-1 g-1). Highest ARA activity was measured in June from S1 bog hollows with higher moisture content incubated without O2 in the light (20-100 nmol C2H4 h-1 g-1). Dissolved Fe (1-25 µM) was higher in hollow vs. hummock samples, and at S1 vs. Zim bog, while dissolved V (4-14 nM) was consistently higher than Mo (1-4 nM), suggesting that alternative V or Fe-containing nitrogenases might be present in these bogs. In contrast, Cu, an essential micronutrient for aerobic methanotrophs, was higher in hummocks (25-48 nM) than hollows (6-17 nM). The facultative methanotroph Methylocella was the dominant diazotroph in the S1 bog based on high throughput next generation sequencing of nifH cDNA amplicons. Given previous reports of C2H2 inhibition of methanotrophy, we measured CH4 consumption in the presence or absence of 1% C2H2. Preliminary results suggest minimal effect of C2H2 on CH4 oxidation. Future measurements of 15N2 incorporation coupled to molecular analysis will elucidate whether methanotroph diazotrophy was suppressed by C2H2 in ARA incubations.