To determine whether repeated, long-term NH(4) (+) fertilization alters the enzymatic function of the atmospheric CH(4) oxidizer community in soil, we examined CH(4) uptake kinetics in temperate pine and hardwood forest soils amended with 150 kg N ha(-1) y(-1) as NH(4)NO(3) for more than a decade. The highest rates of atmospheric CH(4) consumption occurred in the upper 5 cm mineral soil of the control plots. In contrast to the results of several previous studies, surface organic soils in the control plots also exhibited high consumption rates. Fertilization decreased in situ CH(4) consumption in the pine and hardwood sites relative to the control plots by 86% and 49%, respectively. Fertilization increased net N mineralization and relative nitrification rates and decreased CH(4) uptake most dramatically in the organic horizon, which contributed substantially to the overall decrease in field flux rates. In all cases, CH(4) oxidation followed Michaelis-Menten kinetics, with apparent K(m) (K(m(app))) values typical of high-affinity soil CH(4) oxidizers. Both K(m(app)) and V(max(app)) were significantly lower in fertilized soils than in unfertilized soils. The physiology of the methane consumer community in the fertilized soils was distinct from short-term responses to NH(4) (+) addition. Whereas the immediate response to NH(4) (+) was an increase in K(m(app)), resulting from apparent enzymatic substrate competition, the long-term response to fertilization was a community-level shift to a lower K(m(app)), a possible adaptation to diminish the competitiveness of NH(4) (+) for enzyme active sites.