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Davis, D. A., Malone, S. L., & Lovell, C. R. (2018). Responses of Salt Marsh Plant Rhizosphere Diazotroph Assemblages to Drought. Microorganisms, 6(1), 27.
Abstract: Drought has many consequences in the tidally dominated Spartina sp. salt marshes of the southeastern US; including major dieback events, changes in sediment chemistry and obvious changes in the landscape. These coastal systems tend to be highly productive, yet many salt marshes are also nitrogen limited and depend on plant associated diazotrophs as their source of 'new' nitrogen. A 4-year study was conducted to investigate the structure and composition of the rhizosphere diazotroph assemblages associated with 5 distinct plant zones in one such salt marsh. A period of greatly restricted tidal inundation and precipitation, as well as two periods of drought (June-July 2004, and May 2007) occurred during the study. DGGE of nifH PCR amplicons from rhizosphere samples, Principal Components Analysis of the resulting banding patterns, and unconstrained ordination analysis of taxonomic data and environmental parameters were conducted. Diazotroph assemblages were organized into 5 distinct groups (R(2) = 0.41, p value < 0.001) whose presence varied with the environmental conditions of the marsh. Diazotroph assemblage group detection differed during and after the drought event, indicating that persistent diazotrophs maintained populations that provided reduced supplies of new nitrogen for vegetation during the periods of drought.