FEMS microbiology letters 368(21-24) ( 2021)
Peatlands are responsible for over half of wetland methane emissions, yet major uncertainties remain regarding carbon flow, especially when increased availability of electron acceptors stimulates competing physiologies. We used microcosm incubations to study the effects of sulfate on microorganisms in two temperate peatlands, one bog and one fen. Three different electron donor treatments were used (13C-acetate, 13C-formate and a mixture of 12C short-chain fatty acids) to elucidate the responses of sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB) and methanogens to sulfate stimulation. Methane production was measured and metagenomic sequencing was performed, with only the heavy DNA fraction sequenced from treatments receiving 13C electron donors. Our data demonstrate stimulation of dissimilatory sulfate reduction in both sites, with contrasting community responses. In McLean Bog (MB), hydrogenotrophic Deltaproteobacteria and acetotrophic Peptococcaceae lineages of SRB were stimulated, as were lineages with unclassified dissimilatory sulfite reductases. In Michigan Hollow Fen (MHF), there was little stimulation of Peptococcaceae populations, and a small stimulation of Deltaproteobacteria SRB populations only in the presence of formate as electron donor. Sulfate stimulated an increase in relative abundance of reads for both oxidative and reductive sulfite reductases, suggesting stimulation of an internal sulfur cycle. Together, these data indicate a stimulation of SRB activity in response to sulfate in both sites, with a stronger growth response in MB than MHF. This study provides valuable insights into microbial community responses to sulfate in temperate peatlands and is an important first step to understanding how SRB and methanogens compete to regulate carbon flow in these systems.