Different seasonality of pelagic and benthic Thaumarchaeota in the North Sea
We have examined the spatial and seasonal distribution of Thaumarchaeota in the water column and sediment of the southern North Sea using the specific intact polar lipid (IPL) hexose-phosphohexose (HPH) crenarchaeol, as well as thaumarchaeotal 16S rRNA gene abundances and expression. In the water column, a higher abundance of Thaumarchaeota was observed in the winter season than in the summer, which is in agreement with previous studies, but this was not the case in the sediment where Thaumarchaeota were most abundant in spring and summer. This observation corresponds well with the idea that ammonia availability is a key factor in thaumarchaeotal niche determination. In the surface waters of the southern North Sea, we observed a spatial variability in HPH crenarchaeol, thaumarchaeotal 16S rRNA gene abundance and transcriptional activity that corresponded well with the different water masses present. In bottom waters, a clear differentiation based on water masses was not observed; instead, we suggest that observed differences in thaumarchaeotal abundance with depth may be related to resuspension from the sediment. This could be due to suspension of benthic Thaumarchaeota to the water column or due to delivery of e.g. resuspended sediment or ammonium to the water column, which could be utilized by pelagic Thaumarchaeota. This study has shown that the seasonality of Thaumarchaeota in water and sediment is different and highlights the importance of water masses, currents and sedimentary processes in determining the spatial abundance of Thaumarchaeota in the southern North Sea.