Patterns and drivers of anaerobic nitrogen transformations in sediments of thermokarst lakes
Mao C#, Song YT#, Peng YF, Kang LY, Li ZL, Zhou W, Liu XN, Liu FT, Zhu GB, Yang YH*
Global Change Biology
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Significant attention has been given to the way in which the soil nitrogen (N) cycle responds to permafrost thaw in recent years, yet little is known about anaerobic N transformations in thermokarst lakes, which account for more than one-third of thermokarst landforms across permafrost regions. Based on the N isotope dilution and tracing technique, combined with qPCR and high-throughput sequencing, we presented large-scale measurements of anaerobic N transformations of sediments across 30 thermokarst lakes over the Tibetan alpine permafrost region. Our results showed that gross N mineralization, ammonium immobilization, and dissimilatory nitrate reduction rates in thermokarst lakes were higher in the eastern part of our study area than in the west. Denitrification dominated in the dissimilatory nitrate reduction processes, being two and one orders of magnitude higher than anaerobic ammonium oxidation (anammox) and dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium (DNRA), respectively. The abundances of the dissimilatory nitrate reduction genes (nirK, nirS, hzsB, and nrfA) exhibited patterns consistent with sediment N transformation rates, while α diversity did not. The inter-lake variability in gross N mineralization and ammonium immobilization was dominantly driven by microbial biomass, while the variability in anammox and DNRA was driven by substrate supply and organic carbon content, respectively. Denitrification was jointly affected by nirS abundance and organic carbon content. Overall, the patterns and drivers of anaerobic N transformation rates detected in this study provide a new perspective on potential N release, retention, and removal upon the formation and development of thermokarst lakes.