||The annual changes in the composition and abundance of ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA) were analyzed monthly in surface waters of three high mountain lakes within the Limnological Observatory of the Pyrenees (LOOP; northeast Spain) using both 16S rRNA and functional (ammonia monooxygenase gene, amoA) gene sequencing as well as quantitative PCR amplification. The set of biological data was related to changes in nitrogen species and to other relevant environmental variables. The whole archaeal assemblage was dominated by phylotypes closely related to the crenarchaeal 1.1a group (58% +/- 18% of total 16S rRNA gene sequences), and consistent structural changes were detected during the study. Water temperature was the environmental variable that better explained spring, summer, and winter (ice-covered lakes) archaeal assemblage structure. The amoA gene was detected year round, and seasonal changes in amoA gene composition were well correlated with changes in the archaeal 16S rRNA gene pool. In addition, copy numbers of both the specific 1.1a group 16 rRNA and archaeal amoA genes were well correlated, suggesting that most freshwater 1.1a Crenarchaeota had the potential to carry out ammonia oxidation. Seasonal changes in the diversity and abundance of AOA (i.e., amoA) were better explained by temporal changes in ammonium, the substrate for nitrification, and mostly nitrite, the product of ammonia oxidation. Lacustrine amoA gene sequences grouped in coherent freshwater phylogenetic clusters, suggesting that freshwater habitats harbor typical amoA-containing ecotypes, which is different from soils and seas. We observed within the freshwater amoA gene sequence pool a high genetic divergence (translating to up to 32% amino acid divergence) between the spring and the remaining AOA assemblages. This suggests that different AOA ecotypes are adapted to different temporal ecological niches in these lakes.