Peatland succession induces a shift in the community composition of Sphagnum-associated active methanotrophs

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Sphagnum-associated methanotrophs (SAM) are an important sink for the methane (CH4) formed in boreal peatlands. We aimed to reveal how peatland succession, which entails a directional change in several environmental variables, affects SAM and their activity. Based on the pmoA microarray results, SAM community structure changes when a peatland develops from a minerotrophic fen to an ombrotrophic bog. Methanotroph subtypes Ia, Ib, and II showed slightly contrasting patterns during succession, suggesting differences in their ecological niche adaptation. Although the direct DNA-based analysis revealed a high diversity of type Ib and II methanotrophs throughout the studied peatland chronosequence, stable isotope probing (SIP) of the pmoA gene indicated they were active mainly during the later stages of succession. In contrast, type Ia methanotrophs showed active CH4 consumption in all analyzed samples. SIP-derived 13C-labeled 16S rRNA gene clone libraries revealed a high diversity of SAM in every succession stage including some putative Methylocella/Methyloferula methanotrophs that are not detectable with the pmoA-based approach. In addition, a high diversity of 16S rRNA gene sequences likely representing cross-labeled nonmethanotrophs was discovered, including a significant proportion of Verrucomicrobia-related sequences. These results help to predict the effects of changing environmental conditions on SAM communities and activity.

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