The recently discovered complete ammonia oxidizers (comammox), which are ubiquitous in various natural and artificial ecosystems, have led to a paradigm shift in our understanding of aerobic nitrification. The coastal salt marsh covered by various plant species is an important ecosystem to link nitrogen cycles of terrestrial and marine environments; however, the distribution and structure of comammox in such ecosystems have not been clearly investigated. Here, we applied quantitative PCR and partial nested-PCR to investigate the abundance and community composition of comammox in salt marsh sediment samples covered by three plant types along the southern coastline of China. Our results showed a predominance of comammox clade A in majority of the samples, suggesting their ubiquity and the important role they play in nitrification in salt marsh ecosystems. However, variations by the sites were found when comparing the abundance of subclades of comammox clade A. Redundancy analysis demonstrated a coexistence pattern by comammox clade A.1 with ammonia-oxidizing archaea and comammox clade A.2 with canonical ammonia-oxidizing bacteria, indicating their differences in potential niche preference. However, the abundance of comammox clade B was lower than that of comammox clade A and other ammonia oxidizers in most samples. Moreover, pH and salinity were found to be the most significant factors affecting comammox community structures, suggesting their roles in driving niche partitioning of comammox, whereas plant types did not show a significant effect on the comammox community structure. Our study provided insights into the abundance, community diversity, and niche partitions of comammox, broadening the current understanding of the relationship of comammox with other ammonia oxidizers in salt marsh ecosystems.
- Community structure
- Salt marsh