The effect of chironomid larvae on nitrogen cycling and microbial communities in soft sediments

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  • Aurelija Samuiloviene, Klaipeda University
  • ,
  • Marco Bartoli, Klaipeda University, degli Studi di Parma
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  • Stefano Bonaglia, Klaipeda University, Stockholm University, Syddansk Universitet
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  • Ulisse Cardini, Klaipeda University, Istituto Nazionale Tumori IRCCS Fondazione “G. Pascale”
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  • Irma Vybernaite-Lubiene, Klaipeda University
  • ,
  • Ugo Marzocchi
  • Jolita Petkuviene, Klaipeda University
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  • Tobia Politi, Klaipeda University
  • ,
  • Anastasija Zaiko, Klaipeda University, Cawthron, The University of Auckland
  • ,
  • Mindaugas Zilius, Klaipeda University, University of Ferrara

The combination of biogeochemical methods and molecular techniques has the potential to uncover the black-box of the nitrogen (N) cycle in bioturbated sediments. Advanced biogeochemical methods allow the quantification of the process rates of different microbial processes, whereas molecular tools allow the analysis of microbial diversity (16S rRNA metabarcoding) and activity (marker genes and transcripts) in biogeochemical hot-spots such as the burrow wall or macrofauna guts. By combining biogeochemical and molecular techniques, we analyzed the role of tube-dwelling Chironomus plumosus (Insecta, Diptera) larvae on nitrification and nitrate reduction processes in a laboratory experiment with reconstructed sediments. We hypothesized that chironomid larvae stimulate these processes and host bacteria actively involved in N-cycling. Our results suggest that chironomid larvae significantly enhance the recycling of ammonium (80.5 ± 48.7 μmol m-2 h-1) and the production of dinitrogen (420.2 ± 21.4 μmol m-2 h-1) via coupled nitrification-denitrification and the consumption of water column nitrates. Besides creating oxygen microniches in ammonium-rich subsurface sediments via burrow digging and ventilation, chironomid larvae serve as hot-spots of microbial communities involved in N-cycling. The quantification of functional genes showed a significantly higher potential for microbial denitrification and nitrate ammonification in larvae as compared to surrounding sediments. Future studies may further scrutinize N transformation rates associated with intimate macrofaunal-bacteria associations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1931
JournalWater (Switzerland)
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2019
Externally publishedYes

    Research areas

  • 16S rRNA, Chironomid larvae, Denitrification, Functional genes, Microbial community, Nitrogen, Sediment

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