, Volume 95, Issue 2, pp 185–198

Nitrogen dynamics at the sediment–water interface in shallow, sub-tropical Florida Bay: why denitrification efficiency may decrease with increased eutrophication


DOI: 10.1007/s10533-009-9329-5

Cite this article as:
Gardner, W.S. & McCarthy, M.J. Biogeochemistry (2009) 95: 185. doi:10.1007/s10533-009-9329-5


Nitrogen (N) dynamics at the sediment–water interface were examined in four regions of Florida Bay to provide mechanistic information on the fate and effects of increased N inputs to shallow, subtropical, coastal environments. Dissimilatory nitrate (NO3) reduction to ammonium (DNRA) was hypothesized to be a significant mechanism retaining bioreactive N in this warm, saline coastal ecosystem. Nitrogen dynamics, phosphorus (P) fluxes, and sediment oxygen demand (SOD) were measured in north-central (Rankin Key; eutrophic), north-eastern (Duck Key; high N to P seston ratios), north-western (Murray Key; low N to P ratios), and central (Rabbit Key; typical central site) Florida Bay in August 2004, January 2005, and November 2006. Site water was passed over intact sediment cores, and changes in oxygen (O2), phosphate (o-PO43−), ammonium (NH4+), NO3, nitrite (NO2), and N2 concentrations were measured, without and with addition of excess 15NO3 or 15NH4+ to inflow water. These incubations provided estimates of SOD, nutrient fluxes, N2 production, and potential DNRA rates. Denitrification rates were lowest in summer, when SOD was highest. DNRA rates and NH4+ fluxes were high in summer at the eutrophic Rankin site, when denitrification rates were low and almost no N2 came from added 15NO3. Highest 15NH4+ accumulation, resulting from DNRA, occurred at Rabbit Key during a picocyanobacteria bloom in November. 15NH4+ accumulation rates among the stations correlated with SOD in August and January, but not in November during the algal bloom. These mechanistic results help explain why bioreactive N supply rates are sometimes high in Florida Bay and why denitrification efficiency may decrease with increased NO3 inputs in sub-tropical coastal environments.


Florida BayNitrogen transformationsDNRADenitrificationSubtropical/tropical ecosystems

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The University of Texas at Austin Marine Science Institute, Port AransasAustinUSA
  2. 2.Département des sciences biologiquesUniversité du Québec à MontréalMontréalCanada