Permafrost environments in the Arctic are characterized by extreme environmental conditions that demand a specific resistance from microorganisms to enable them to survive. In order to understand the carbon dynamics in the climate-sensitive Arctic permafrost environments, the activity and diversity of methanogenic communities were studied in three different permafrost soils of the Siberian Laptev Sea coast. The effect of temperature and the availability of methanogenic substrates on CH4 production was analysed. In addition, the diversity of methanogens was analysed by PCR with specific methanogenic primers and by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) followed by sequencing of DGGE bands reamplified from the gel. Our results demonstrated methanogenesis with a distinct vertical profile in each investigated permafrost soil. The soils on Samoylov Island showed at least two optima of CH4 production activity, which indicated a shift in the methanogenic community from mesophilic to psychrotolerant methanogens with increasing soil depth. Furthermore, it was shown that CH4 production in permafrost soils is substrate-limited, although these soils are characterized by the accumulation of organic matter. Sequence analyses revealed a distinct diversity of methanogenic archaea affiliated to Methanomicrobiaceae, Methanosarcinaceae and Methanosaetaceae. However, a relationship between the activity and diversity of methanogens in permafrost soils could not be shown.
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