Microbial metabolism fuels ecosystem-scale organic matter transformations: an integrated biological and chemical perspective
Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 8:30 AM
Freshwater saturated sediments and soils represent vital ecosystems due to their nutrient cycling capacities and their prominent contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions. However, the diversity of microorganisms and metabolic pathways involved in carbon cycling, and the impacts of these processes on other biogeochemical cycles remain poorly understood. Major advances in DNA sequencing have helped forge linkages between the previously disconnected biological and chemical components of these systems. Here, we present data on the use of assembly-based metagenomics to generate hypotheses on microbial carbon degradation and biogeochemical cycling in waterlogged sediments and soils. DNA sequencing from a fresh water aquifer adjacent to the Colorado River in Rifle, CO yielded extensive genome recovery from multiple previously unknown bacterial lineages. Fermentative metabolisms encoded by these genomes drive nitrogen, hydrogen, and sulfur cycling in this subsurface system. We are also applying a similar approach to identify microbial processes in a freshwater wetland on Lake Erie, OH. Given the increased diversity (increased richness, decreased evenness, and strain variation) of wetland sediment microbial communities, we modified methods for specialized assembly of long taxonomic marker gene amplicons (EMIRGE) to create a biogeographical map of Fungi, Archaea, and Bacteria along depth and hydrological transects. This map reveals that the microbial community associated with the top two depths (>7 cm) is significantly different from bottom depths (7-40 cm). Dissolved organic matter (DOM) molecular weight and the presence of oxidized terminal electron acceptors best predict differences in microbial community structure. Laboratory mesocosms amended with pore-water DOM, in situ soil communities, and variable oxygen conditions link DOM composition and redox to microbial metabolic networks, biogeochemical cycles, and green house gas emission. Organism identities from laboratory studies are linked to field biogeography patterns to inform a physiology-based understanding of wetland biogeochemical processes. This research sheds light on microbial organisms and interdependent metabolic processes impacting cycling of organic matter in freshwater sediments and soils.