Methane Oxidising Bacteria as Environmental Indicators

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This report focuses on methane oxidising bacteria (methanotrophs). The key function of methanotrophs as methane consumers and degraders of halogenated hydrocarbons bring them in the perspective of being useful indicators of environmental perturbations. Effects of climate on diversity and temperature adaptation as well as the capacity of different methanotrophs to degrade two atmospheric pollutants (chlorofluoromethanes) was investigated. None of the methanotrophs were found to be adapted for growth at permanently low temperatures although type I methanotrophs grew better at lower temperatures than the type II methanotrophs. Some of the methanotrophs were able to degrade dichlorofluoromethane while chlorodifluoromethane degradation was not demonstrated. No correlation was found between the degradation capacity and the origin of the isolates (landfill or wetland soil), or characteristics of their methane monooxygenase enzymes. The project did not identify a simple correlation between climatic variation or environmental stress and the variation in composition of the methanotroph community. More knowledge about temperature dependent interactions between type I and type II methanotrophs is needed before the composition of methanotrophs can be implemented as an indicator revealing ecological consequences of e.g. changes in climate.




In this paper we present data from our experimental work in the project “Methane oxidising bacteria as an integrated environmental indicator” commissioned by the Nordic Council of Ministers. Our data is then discussed with regard to the potential of methane oxidising bacteria as environmental indicators. The present research does not seek to reproduce monitoring surveys of methanotrophs or their processes that are already recognised as useful environmental indicators. Instead, it describes innovative and reliable methodologies that enable the study of methanotroph communities in soil both directly and by isolation of the bacteria. We emphasise the stability and functional adaptation of methanotroph communities to climate and to environmental pollution. This provides a better platform for the evaluation of methanotrophy as a microbial indicator in Nordic soils.


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