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Trace Elements Affect Methanogenic Activity and Diversity in Enrichments From Subsurface Coal Beds

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Principal Investigator/Project Leader: 
Co-Principal Investigator/Co-Project Leader: 
Department of Project: 
Department of Microbiology
Project Description: 

Global climate change and nitrogen deposition are processes that will only increase as industrialization continues. The purpose of this study is to understand the response of the microbially driven soil nitrogen cycle to the combined effects of temperature increase and nitrogen amendments in forest soils of New England. Terrestrial cycling of nutrients is of particular importance due to the effects nutrient cycling can have on plant growth and climate change.

Among all the elements cycled in terrestrial ecosystems, one of the most limiting is nitrogen. Even with copious amounts of carbon, plants, animals, and microbes will not survive and grow without adequate supplies of nitrogen to meet their physiological demands. Additionally, the soil N cycle directly contributes to the production of the ozone depleting gas nitric oxide (NO) and the potent greenhouse gas nitrous oxide (N2O). Regardless of the immense importance of nitrogen cycling to primary productivity and global climate change, many ecological and climatic studies of soil nitrogen cycling "black-box" the microbial component of nitrogen usage in environments, and do not investigate the dynamics of nitrogen cycling microbes. Because microbes form the basis of nitrogen cycling, the processes and interactions of nitrogen cycling microbial communities must be characterized in order to fully understand nitrogen cycling within any given habitat.

Despite the central role microbes play in the nitrogen cycle, few studies have looked at the combined effects of disturbance, in the form of increasing temperatures and increased nitrogen deposition, on microbes. This background will inform further studies on changes in the resilience of these essential biogeochemical soil functions in temperate mixed hardwood forests, and will benefit rural life and the general public in Massachusetts.