Indexed on: 11 May '10Published on: 11 May '10Published in: Applied and environmental microbiology
Wetland mitigation is implemented to replace ecosystem functions provided by wetlands; however, restoration efforts frequently fail to establish equivalent levels of ecosystem services. Delivery of microbially mediated ecosystem functions, such as denitrification, is influenced by both the structure and activity of the microbial community. The objective of this study was to compare the relationship between soil and vegetation factors and microbial community structure and function in restored and reference wetlands within a mitigation bank. Microbial community composition was assessed using terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism targeting the 16S rRNA gene (total bacteria) and the nosZ gene (denitrifiers). Comparisons of microbial function were based on potential denitrification rates. Bacterial community structures differed significantly between restored and reference wetlands; denitrifier community assemblages were similar among reference sites but highly variable among restored sites throughout the mitigation bank. Potential denitrification was highest in the reference wetland sites. These data demonstrate that wetland restoration efforts in this mitigation bank have not successfully restored denitrification and that differences in potential denitrification rates may be due to distinct microbial assemblages observed in restored and reference (natural) wetlands. Further, we have identified gradients in soil moisture and soil fertility that were associated with differences in microbial community structure. Microbial function was influenced by bacterial community composition and soil fertility. Identifying soil factors that are primary ecological drivers of soil bacterial communities, especially denitrifying populations, can potentially aid the development of predictive models for restoration of biogeochemical transformations and enhance the success of wetland restoration efforts.