In the present study the diversity and abundance of nitrifying microbes including ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA) and betaproteobacteria (beta-AOB) were investigated, along with the physicochemical parameters potentially affecting them, in a transect of surface sediments from the coastal margin adjacent to the Pearl River estuary to the slope in the deep South China Sea. Nitrifying microbial diversity was determined by detecting the amoA (ammonia monooxygenase subunit A) gene. An obvious community structure shift for both AOA and beta-AOB from the coastal marginal areas to the slope in the deep-sea was detected, while the OTU numbers of AOA amoA were more stable than those of the beta-AOB. The OTUs of beta-AOB increased with the distance from the coastal margin areas to the slope in the deep-sea. Beta-AOB showed lower diversity with dominant strains in a polluted area but higher diversity without dominant strains in a clean area. Moreover, the diversity of beta-AOB was correlated with pH values, while no noticeable relationships were established between AOA and physicochemical parameters. Beta-AOB was more sensitive to transect environmental variability and might be a potential indicator for environmental changes. Additionally, the surface sediments surveyed in the South China Sea harboured diverse and distinct AOA and beta-AOB phylotypes different from other environments, suggesting the endemicity of some nitrifying prokaryotes in the South China Sea.
- Ammonia monooxygenase subunit A (amoA)
- Ammonia-oxidizing archaea
- Ammonia-oxidizing bacteria
- South China Sea