Abundance and diversity of sulphur-oxidising bacteria and their role in oxidising elemental sulphur in cropping soils
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There is an increasing interest in elemental S as a S fertiliser source, but to be available to plants, elemental S has to be oxidised to sulphate. Elemental S oxidation is known to be affected by soil properties and environmental conditions, but it is still unclear if elemental S oxidation is related to the abundance and diversity of S-oxidising bacteria in cropping soils. In this study, we investigated the abundance and diversity of S-oxidising bacteria by targeting a functional gene (soxB) and assessed their relationship with elemental S oxidation in ten cropping soils. Positive correlations between soil C, N and S contents on the one hand and the abundances of soxB and 16S ribosomal deoxyribonucleic acid (rRNA) genes on the other suggested that the abundances of S oxidising bacteria in particular and of bacteria in general depend on soil C and nutrient supply. Both soxB and 16S rRNA gene abundances were significantly correlated with the oxidation rate of elemental S (P < 0.05). In addition, more than 80% of the variation in the oxidation rate of elemental S could be explained by the combination of soxB or 16S rRNA gene abundances and soil pH, suggesting that pH not only affected bacterial abundances but also their activity during elemental S oxidation. Clone libraries constructed with the soxB primers showed genera belonging to Alphaproteobacteria, Betaproteobacteria and Deltaproteobacteria and Actinobacteria. The phylogenetic diversity and relative distribution of soxB clones revealed great differences across soils. However, no direct linkage was found between the diversity of S-oxidising bacteria and elemental S oxidation rate.
KeywordsSulphur Oxidisers soxB Bacteria Diversity
The authors would like to acknowledge China Scholarship Council for providing the scholarship and Mosaic Company for support. Special thanks go to Marcus Hicks for his significant assistance with extraction and characterisation of soil DNA. Nilangani Harris, Belinda Stummer, Rosemary Warren and Adrienne Gregg are also acknowledged for their assistance with molecular techniques.
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