The diversity and spatio-temporal distribution of ammonia-oxidizing Archaea (AOA) and Bacteria (AOB) were investigated along a salinity gradient in sediments of the Westerschelde estuary. Sediment samples were collected from three sites with different salinities, and at six time points over the year. Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis of PCR-amplified 16S rRNA and amoA gene fragments was used to identify the AOA and AOB present. Members of the AOA were mainly belonging to the Crenarchaeota Group 1, which were found at all sites, while members of the genus Nitrosomonas, which were abundant at the brackish sites, and of the genus Nitrosospira, which were present in early spring at the marine sites, were found to be the dominant AOB. Statistical analysis indicated that salinity and temperature were the main factors controlling the diversity and distribution of both AOA and AOB. Variability in net primary production rates was also correlated with species composition of both groups, but changes in the nitrite concentration only to the distribution of the AOA.
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