Abstract: Wetlands play a crucial role in the carbon cycle as they are the largest natural source of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Changes in wetland hydrology can alter the rate of greenhouse gas release from wetlands and have the potential to alter Earth’s carbon budget. However, the microbial dynamics underpinning these observations are poorly constrained. Here we combine monitoring of environmental parameters and greenhouse gas fluxes with monthly records of microbial phospholipid fatty acid (PLFAs) d13C values to probe changes in microbial community and biogeochemistry in response to hydrological changes in a monsoon influenced subtropical wetland from central China. Our results show that water table depth is a key factor controlling the microbial community structure, with Gram-negative bacteria and actinobacteria increasing and fungi decreasing during dry and low water table periods. Meanwhile, the d13C values of specific PLFAs decreased up to 12‰ during dry compared to wet periods. The extent of depletion varied, but PLFAs from Gram-negative bacteria were most depleted in 13C, indicative for a rapid increase in methanotrophy (methane consumption) during these dry periods. Furthermore, the methane emission of the wetland was drastically reduced and even had negative flux values during dry periods, suggesting that the increased methanotrophy led to a reduced methane flux and a temporary shift of the wetland from a methane source to a methane sink. Our results indicate that short-term hydrological variations lead to a rapid response in microbial community and carbon metabolic activity that directly influences wetland carbon dynamics and greenhouse gas emissions.

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Variations in wetland hydrology drive rapid changes in the microbial community, carbon metabolic activity, and greenhouse gas fluxes