Ammonia oxidizing archaea (AOA) and bacteria (AOB) are thought to contribute differently to soil nitrification, yet the extent to which their relative abundances influence the temperature response of nitrification is poorly understood. Here, we investigated the impact of different AOA to AOB ratios on soil nitrification potential (NP) across a temperature gradient from 4 °C to 40 °C in twenty different organic and inorganic fertilized soils. The temperature responses of different relative abundance of ammonia oxidizers for nitrification were modeled using square rate theory (SQRT) and macromolecular rate theory (MMRT) models. We found that the proportional nitrification rates at different temperatures varied among AOA to AOB ratios. Predicted by both models, an optimum temperature (Topt
) for nitrification in AOA dominated soils was significantly higher than for soils where AOA and AOB abundances are within the same order of magnitude. Moreover, the change in heat capacity (
) associated with the temperature dependence of nitrification was positively correlated with Topt
and significantly varied among the AOA to AOB ratios. The temperature ranges for NP decreased with increasing AOA abundance for both organic and inorganic fertilized soils. These results challenge the widely accepted approach of comparing NP rates in different soils at a fixed temperature. We conclude that a shift in AOA to AOB ratio in soils exhibits distinguished temperature-dependent characteristics that have an important impact on nitrification responses across the temperature gradient. The proposed approach benefits the accurate discernment of the true contribution of fertilized soils to nitrification for improvement of nitrogen management.
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