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Atmospheric Methane Consumption by Forest Soils and Extracted Bacteria at Different pH Values

  • John A. Amaral
  • Tie Ren
  • Roger Knowles
American Society for Microbiology
Publication Date
Jul 01, 1998
  • Biology


The effect of pH on atmospheric methane (CH4) consumption was studied with slurries of forest soils and with bacteria extracted from the same soils. Soil samples were collected from a mixed hardwood stand in New Hampshire, from jackpine and aspen stands at the BOREAS (Boreal Ecosystem Atmosphere Study) site near Thompson, northern Manitoba, from sites in southern Québec, including a beech stand and a meadow, and from a site in Ontario (cultivated humisol). Consumption of atmospheric CH4 (concentration, approximately 1.8 ppm) occurred at depths of >5 cm in both acidic (pH 4.5 to 5.2) and alkaline (pH 7.2 to 7.8) soils. In slurries of acidic soils, maximum activity occurred at different pH values (pH 4.0 to 6.5). Bacteria extracted from these soils by high-speed blending and density gradient centrifugation showed pH responses different from the pH responses of the slurries. In all cases, these bacteria had a methanotrophy pH optimum of 5.8 and exhibited no activity at pH 6.8 to 7.0, the pH optimum range for known methanotrophs. This difference in pH responses could be useful in modifying media currently used for isolation of these organisms. Methanotrophic activity was induced in previously non-CH4-consuming soils by preincubation with 5% (vol/vol) CH4 (50,000 μl of CH4 per liter) or by liquid enrichment with 20% CH4. The bacteria showed pH responses typical of known methanotrophs and not typical of preexisting consumers of ambient CH4. Furthermore, methanotrophs induced by high CH4 levels were more readily extracted from soil than preexisting ambient CH4 consumers were. In the alkaline soils, preexisting activity either was destroyed or resisted extraction by the procedure used. The results support the hypothesis that consumers of ambient CH4 in soils are physiologically distinct from the known methanotrophs.

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