• ammonia-oxidizing archaea;
  • ammonia-oxidizing bacteria;
  • nitrification;
  • soil depth;
  • soil ammonium;
  • wetland


Oxidation of ammonia, the first step in nitrification, is carried out in soil by bacterial and archaeal ammonia oxidizers and recent studies suggest possible selection for the latter in low-ammonium environments. In this study, we investigated the selection of ammonia-oxidizing archaea and bacteria in wetland soil vertical profiles at two sites differing in terms of the ammonium supply rate, but not significantly in terms of the groundwater level. One site received ammonium through decomposition of organic matter, while the second, polluted site received a greater supply, through constant leakage of an underground septic tank. Soil nitrification potential was significantly greater at the polluted site. Quantification of amoA genes demonstrated greater abundance of bacterial than archaeal amoA genes throughout the soil profile at the polluted site, whereas bacterial amoA genes at the unpolluted site were below the detection limit. At both sites, archaeal, but not the bacterial community structure was clearly stratified with depth, with regard to the soil redox potential imposed by groundwater level. However, depth-related changes in the archaeal community structure may also be associated with physiological functions other than ammonia oxidation.