Methanotrophy across a natural permafrost thaw environment

Published in The ISME Journal, 2018

Singleton, C. M., McCalley, C. K., Woodcroft, B. J., Boyd, J. A., Evans, P. N., Hodgkins, S. B., Chanton, J. P., Frolking, S., Crill, P. M., Saleska, S. R., Rich, V. I., & Tyson, G. W. (2018). Methanotrophy across a natural permafrost thaw environment. ISME J., 12, 2544–2558.

The fate of carbon sequestered in permafrost is a key concern for future global warming as this large carbon stock is rapidly becoming a net methane source due to widespread thaw. Methane release from permafrost is moderated by methanotrophs, which oxidise 20–60% of this methane before emission to the atmosphere. Despite the importance of methanotrophs to carbon cycling, these microorganisms are under-characterised and have not been studied across a natural permafrost thaw gradient. Here, we examine methanotroph communities from the active layer of a permafrost thaw gradient in Stordalen Mire (Abisko, Sweden) spanning three years, analysing 188 metagenomes and 24 metatranscriptomes paired with in situ biogeochemical data. Methanotroph community composition and activity varied significantly as thaw progressed from intact permafrost palsa, to partially thawed bog and fully thawed fen. Thirteen methanotroph population genomes were recovered, including two novel genomes belonging to the uncultivated upland soil cluster alpha (USCα) group and a novel potentially methanotrophic Hyphomicrobiaceae. Combined analysis of porewater δ13C-CH4 isotopes and methanotroph abundances showed methane oxidation was greatest below the oxic–anoxic interface in the bog. These results detail the direct effect of thaw on autochthonous methanotroph communities, and their consequent changes in population structure, activity and methane moderation potential.