Communities of ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA) and bacteria (AOB) in freshwater sediments and those in association with the root system of the macrophyte species Littorella uniflora, Juncus bulbosus, and Myriophyllum alterniflorum were compared for seven oligotrophic to mesotrophic softwater lakes and acidic heathland pools. Archaeal and bacterial ammonia monooxygenase alpha-subunit (amoA) gene diversity increased from oligotrophic to mesotrophic sites; the number of detected operational taxonomic units was positively correlated to ammonia availability and pH and negatively correlated to sediment C/N ratios. AOA communities could be grouped according to lake trophic status and pH; plant species-specific communities were not detected, and no grouping was apparent for AOB communities. Relative abundance, determined by quantitative PCR targeting amoA, was always low for AOB (<0.05% of all prokaryotes) and slightly higher for AOA in unvegetated sediment and AOA in association with M. alterniflorum (0.01 to 2%), while AOA accounted for up to 5% in the rhizospheres of L. uniflora and J. bulbosus. These results indicate that (i) AOA are at least as numerous as AOB in freshwater sediments, (ii) aquatic macrophytes with substantial release of oxygen and organic carbon into their rhizospheres, like L. uniflora and J. bulbosus, increase AOA abundance; and (iii) AOA community composition is generally determined by lake trophy, not by plant species-specific interactions.
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