Population dynamics of methanogens and methanotrophs along the salinity gradient in Pearl River Estuary: implications for methane metabolism
Methane, a major greenhouse gas, plays an important role in global carbon cycling and climate change. Methanogenesis is identified as an important process for methane formation in estuarine sediments. However, the metabolism of methane in the water columns of estuaries is not well understood. The goal of this research was to examine the dynamics in abundance and community composition of methanogens and methanotrophs, and to examine whether and how they take part in methane metabolism in the water columns from the lower Pearl River (freshwater) to the coastal South China Sea (seawater). Quantitative PCR (qPCR) and high-throughput sequencing results showed that the abundance of methanogens decreased with increasing salinity, suggesting that growth of these methanogens in the Pearl River Estuary may be influenced by high salinity. Also, the methane concentration in surface waters was lower than that in near-bottom waters at most sites, suggesting sediment methanogens are a likely source of methane. In the estuarine mixing zone, significantly high methane concentrations existed with the presence of salt-tolerant methanogens (e.g., Methanomicrobiaceae, Methanocella, Methanosaeta and Methanobacterium) and methanotrophs (e.g., Methylocystis and Methylococcaceae), which were found in brackish habitats. Furthermore, a number of methanotrophic OTUs (from pmoA gene sequence data) had specific positive correlations with methanogenic OTUs (from mcrA gene sequence data), and some of these methanogenic OTUs were correlated with concentrations of particulate organic carbon (POC). The results indicate that methanotrophs and methanogens may be intimately linked in methane metabolism attached with particles in estuarine waters.
KeywordsPearl River estuary Methanogens Methanotrophs mcrA gene pmoA gene
We thank Fengfeng Zheng, Yufei Chen, Tingting Zhang, and Bu Xu for data analysis.
This research was supported by the Ministry of Science and Technology Award (Nos. 2016YFA0601101 and 2018YFA0605800), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 91,851,210, 41,530,105 and 41,776,134), the Key Project of Natural Science Foundation of Guangdong Province (No. 2018B030311016), the Shenzhen Key Laboratory of Marine Archaea Geo-Omics, Southern University of Science and Technology (No. ZDSYS201802081843490), and the Laboratory for Marine Geology, Qingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology (No. MGQNLM-TD201810).
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.
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