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Recently identified microbial guild mediates soil N2O sink capacity


Nitrous oxide (N2O) is the predominant ozone-depleting substance and contributes approximately 6% to overall global warming1,2. Terrestrial ecosystems account for nearly 70% of total global N2O atmospheric loading, of which at least 45% can be attributed to microbial cycling of nitrogen in agriculture3. The reduction of N2O to nitrogen gas by microorganisms is critical for mitigating its emissions from terrestrial ecosystems, yet the determinants of a soil’s capacity to act as a source or sink for N2O remain uncertain4. Here, we demonstrate that the soil N2O sink capacity is mostly explained by the abundance and phylogenetic diversity of a newly described N2O-reducing microbial group5,6, which mediate the influence of edaphic factors. Analyses of interactions and niche preference similarities suggest niche differentiation or even competitive interactions between organisms with the two types of N2O reductase. We further identified several recurring communities comprised of co-occurring N2O-reducing bacterial genotypes that were significant indicators of the soil N2O sink capacity across different European soils.

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Figure 1: Range of potential soil N2O sink capacity.
Figure 2: Phylogenetic placement of nosZ pyrosequencing reads within a reference phylogeny.
Figure 3: Structural equation model showing the relative influence of soil abiotic and denitrifier community factors on the soil N2O sink capacity.
Figure 4: Network analysis of nosZ sequence groups identifying N2O-reducing communities associated with soils acting as potential N2O sinks.


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We thank all of our collaborators who contributed to the soil sampling. This research was supported by the European Commission within the EcoFINDERS project (FP7-264465), the French Embassy in Dublin, the Conseil Régional de Bourgogne, Teagasc and The Swedish Research Council Formas (2009-741).

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C.M.J., A.S., S.H. and L.P. designed the study, analysed the data and compiled the manuscript with the help of B.G. and P.L. Soil samples were collected by D.B., F.P.B., C.M.J., A.S. and L.P. with support from the EcoFINDERS project. Microcosm set-up and gas analysis was performed by M-C.B., D.B., F.P.B. and C.M.J., and soil DNA extractions, real-time PCR and 454 sequencing was performed by A.S., M-C.B. and D.B.

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Correspondence to Christopher M. Jones, Ayme Spor or Sara Hallin.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Jones, C., Spor, A., Brennan, F. et al. Recently identified microbial guild mediates soil N2O sink capacity. Nature Clim Change 4, 801–805 (2014).

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