Dynamics and functional relevance of ammonia-oxidizing archaea in two agricultural soils

Environ Microbiol. 2009 Feb;11(2):446-56. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-2920.2008.01783.x.


Crucial steps in geochemical cycles are in many cases performed by more than one group of microorganisms, but the significance of this functional redundancy with respect to ecosystem functioning is poorly understood. Ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA) and their bacterial counterparts (AOB) are a perfect system to address this question: although performing the same transformation step, they belong to well-separated phylogenetic groups. Using pig manure amended with different concentrations of sulfadiazine (SDZ), an antibiotic that is frequently used in veterinary medicine, it was possible to affect AOB and AOA to different degrees. Addition of manure stimulated growth of AOB in both soils and, interestingly, also growth of AOA was considerably stimulated in one of the soils. The antibiotic treatments decreased the manure effect notably on AOB, whereas AOA were affected to a lower extent. Model calculations concerning the respective proportions of AOA and AOB in ammonia oxidation indicate a substantial contribution of AOA in one of the soils that further increased under the influence of SDZ, hence indicating functional redundancy between AOA and AOB.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ammonia / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Anti-Infective Agents / pharmacology
  • Archaea / growth & development*
  • Archaea / metabolism*
  • Bacteria / drug effects
  • Bacteria / growth & development
  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Manure / microbiology
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Soil Microbiology*
  • Sulfadiazine / pharmacology
  • Swine


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Manure
  • Sulfadiazine
  • Ammonia