Subaerial explosive volcanism contributes substantial amounts of material to the oceans, but little is known about the impact of volcanic ash on sedimentary microbial activity. We have studied anammox communities in deep sea sediments near the volcanically active island of Montserrat, Lesser Antilles. The rates of anammox and denitrification in the sediments were measured using 15N isotope pairing incubation experiments, while 16S rRNA genes were used to examine anammox community structures. The higher anammox rates were measured in sediment containing the lower accumulation of volcanic ash in the surface sediments, while the lowest activities were found in sediments with the highest ash deposit. 16S rRNA gene analysis revealed the presence of ‘Candidatus Scalindua spp.’ in the sediments. The lowest diversity of anammox bacteria was observed in the sediments with the highest ash deposit. Overall, this study demonstrates that the deposition of volcanic material in deep sea sediments has negative impacts on activity and diversity of the anammox community. Since anammox may account for up to 79% of N2 production in marine ecosystems, periods of extensive explosive volcanism in Earth history may have had a hitherto unrecognized negative impact on the sedimentary nitrogen removal processes.
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