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      Methane dynamics regulated by microbial community response to permafrost thaw

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          Abstract

          Permafrost contains about 50% of the global soil carbon. It is thought that the thawing of permafrost can lead to a loss of soil carbon in the form of methane and carbon dioxide emissions. The magnitude of the resulting positive climate feedback of such greenhouse gas emissions is still unknown and may to a large extent depend on the poorly understood role of microbial community composition in regulating the metabolic processes that drive such ecosystem-scale greenhouse gas fluxes. Here we show that changes in vegetation and increasing methane emissions with permafrost thaw are associated with a switch from hydrogenotrophic to partly acetoclastic methanogenesis, resulting in a large shift in the δ(13)C signature (10-15‰) of emitted methane. We used a natural landscape gradient of permafrost thaw in northern Sweden as a model to investigate the role of microbial communities in regulating methane cycling, and to test whether a knowledge of community dynamics could improve predictions of carbon emissions under loss of permafrost. Abundance of the methanogen Candidatus 'Methanoflorens stordalenmirensis' is a key predictor of the shifts in methane isotopes, which in turn predicts the proportions of carbon emitted as methane and as carbon dioxide, an important factor for simulating the climate feedback associated with permafrost thaw in global models. By showing that the abundance of key microbial lineages can be used to predict atmospherically relevant patterns in methane isotopes and the proportion of carbon metabolized to methane during permafrost thaw, we establish a basis for scaling changing microbial communities to ecosystem isotope dynamics. Our findings indicate that microbial ecology may be important in ecosystem-scale responses to global change.

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          Biogenic methane formation in marine and freshwater environments: CO2 reduction vs. acetate fermentation—Isotope evidence

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            Metagenomic analysis of a permafrost microbial community reveals a rapid response to thaw.

            Permafrost contains an estimated 1672 Pg carbon (C), an amount roughly equivalent to the total currently contained within land plants and the atmosphere. This reservoir of C is vulnerable to decomposition as rising global temperatures cause the permafrost to thaw. During thaw, trapped organic matter may become more accessible for microbial degradation and result in greenhouse gas emissions. Despite recent advances in the use of molecular tools to study permafrost microbial communities, their response to thaw remains unclear. Here we use deep metagenomic sequencing to determine the impact of thaw on microbial phylogenetic and functional genes, and relate these data to measurements of methane emissions. Metagenomics, the direct sequencing of DNA from the environment, allows the examination of whole biochemical pathways and associated processes, as opposed to individual pieces of the metabolic puzzle. Our metagenome analyses reveal that during transition from a frozen to a thawed state there are rapid shifts in many microbial, phylogenetic and functional gene abundances and pathways. After one week of incubation at 5 °C, permafrost metagenomes converge to be more similar to each other than while they are frozen. We find that multiple genes involved in cycling of C and nitrogen shift rapidly during thaw. We also construct the first draft genome from a complex soil metagenome, which corresponds to a novel methanogen. Methane previously accumulated in permafrost is released during thaw and subsequently consumed by methanotrophic bacteria. Together these data point towards the importance of rapid cycling of methane and nitrogen in thawing permafrost.
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              Metabolic, phylogenetic, and ecological diversity of the methanogenic archaea.

              Although of limited metabolic diversity, methanogenic archaea or methanogens possess great phylogenetic and ecological diversity. Only three types of methanogenic pathways are known: CO(2)-reduction, methyl-group reduction, and the aceticlastic reaction. Cultured methanogens are grouped into five orders based upon their phylogeny and phenotypic properties. In addition, uncultured methanogens that may represent new orders are present in many environments. The ecology of methanogens highlights their complex interactions with other anaerobes and the physical and chemical factors controlling their function.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature
                Nature
                Springer Science and Business Media LLC
                0028-0836
                1476-4687
                October 2014
                October 22 2014
                October 2014
                : 514
                : 7523
                : 478-481
                Article
                10.1038/nature13798
                25341787
                392b9bfc-1a9b-4212-ac83-a0b266d3bf73
                © 2014

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