Microorganisms play an important role in global nutrient cycles. A research team led by Christa Schleper, head of the Department of Genetics in Ecology at the University of Vienna, has isolated the first ammonium oxidizing Archaeon from a soil in Vienna and thus proved its activity. The researchers present their results on "Nitrososphaera viennensis" in the newest edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Life on Earth would be impossible, without the metabolic capacities of the smallest of all living forms, the Bacteria and the Archaea. These microorganisms play a central role in global nutrient cycles, because they degrade organic matter to the smallest compounds, thus bringing them back to the atmosphere or recycling them for the synthesis of novel cells. "However, the great diversity and high numbers of Bacteria and Archaea in soils have only been detected relatively recently, with the help of molecular biological methods", says Christa Schleper, head of the department of Genetics in Ecology of the University of Vienna.