Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date



Frontiers in Microbiology



First Page



We investigated the effects of trace metal additions on microbial nitrogen (N) and carbon (C) cycling using freshwater wetland sediment microcosms amended with micromolar concentrations of copper (Cu), molybdenum (Mo), iron (Fe), and all combinations thereof. In addition to monitoring inorganic N transformations (NO3, NO2, N2O, NH4+) and carbon mineralization (CO2, CH4), we tracked changes in functional gene abundance associated with denitrification (nirS, nirK, nosZ), dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium (DNRA; nrfA), and methanogenesis (mcrA). With regards to N cycling, greater availability of Cu led to more complete denitrification (i.e., less N2O accumulation) and a higher abundance of the nirK and nosZ genes, which encode for Cu-dependent reductases. In contrast, we found sparse biochemical evidence of DNRA activity and no consistent effect of the trace metal additions on nrfA gene abundance. With regards to C mineralization, CO2 production was unaffected, but the amendments stimulated net CH4 production and Mo additions led to increased mcrA gene abundance. These findings demonstrate that trace metal effects on sediment microbial physiology can impact community-level function. We observed direct and indirect effects on both N and C biogeochemistry that resulted in increased production of greenhouse gasses, which may have been mediated through the documented changes in microbial community composition and shifts in functional group abundance. Overall, this work supports a more nuanced consideration of metal effects on environmental microbial communities that recognizes the key role that metal limitation plays in microbial physiology.




denitrification, DNRA, carbon mineralization, wetland microbes, trace metals (1814 kB)
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