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Study reveals dynamics of microbes and nitrate
Date:8/7/2014

ers found that three specific initial factors were conclusively responsible for determining the denitrification or ammonification of the nitrate supply, regardless of other conditions: the nitrite to nitrate ratio, the carbon to nitrogen ratio, and hitherto unknown - the time it takes the microbes to duplicate themselves as a community (their "generation time"). Further, the team found that different specific cohorts of bacteria achieved system dominance to perform the processes, depending on the set conditions.

"The natural sample we used was from an area of sandy tidal flat, where nitrate flushes from fertilizer runoff pass through. The tides cause water movement through the sediments, so there is movement and disturbance and change," noted UNC Charlotte's Martin Klotz, an authority on microbial enzymes that process nitrogen. "Everything that survives there as a community has to be prepared for huge fluctuations. There are lots of little specialists that work together."

"There are very few micro-organisms that have in one cell all the tools to do either complete direction of these reactions," Klotz said. "It is usually different populations that translate to these bins that do one or the other and they are favored by environmental signals. Either there is energy and reductant available for them to make a living or they respond to different cues, such as pH, temperature, and so on. "

Strous notes that it really comes down to the basic chemical pathways and their energetics, which, depending on conditions, allow different assemblages of bacteria to work together and do their part in the process. The three factors identified by Strous' team's experiments are the critical switches that determine whether it is the denitrification or the ammonification process that dominates the microbial ecosystem, in that the factors select specific bacteria that succeed in getting major parts in the process.

"The factors we found that drive the
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Contact: James Hathaway
jbhathaw@uncc.edu
704-687-5743
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Source:Eurekalert

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