, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 19–39 | Cite as

Linkages between organic matter mineralization and denitrification in eight riparian wetlands

  • Sybil P. Seitzinger


Denitrification (N2 production) and oxygen consumption rates were measured at ambient field nitrate concentrations during summer in sediments from eight wetlands (mixed hardwood swamps, cedar swamps, heath dominated shrub wetland, herbaceous peatland, and a wetland lacking live vegetation) and two streams. The study sites included wetlands in undisturbed watersheds and in watersheds with considerable agricultural and/or sewage treatment effluent input. Denitrification rates measured in intact cores of water-saturated sediment ranged from ≤ 20 to 260 μmol N m-2 h-1 among the three undisturbed wetlands and were less variable (180 to 260 μmol N M-2 h-1) among the four disturbed wetlands. Denitrification rates increased when nitrate concentrations in the overlying water were increased experimentally (1 up to 770 μM), indicating that nitrate was an important factor controlling denitrification rates. However, rates of nitrate uptake from the overlying water were not a good predictor of denitrification rates because nitrification in the sediments also supplied nitrate for denitrification. Regardless of the dominant vegetation, pH, or degree of disturbance, denitrification rates were best correlated with sediment oxygen consumption rates (r2 = 0.912) indicating a relationship between denitrification and organic matter mineralization and/or sediment nitrification rates. Rates of denitrification in the wetland sediments were similar to those in adjacent stream sediments. Rates of denitrification in these wetlands were within the range of rates previously reported for water-saturated wetland sediments and flooded soils using whole core15N techniques that quantify coupled nitrification/denitrification, and were higher than rates reported from aerobic (non-saturated) wetland sediments using acetylene block methods.


denitrification mineralization nitrification nitrogen riparian stream wetland New Jersey Pennsylvania Pinelands 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Andersen FO & Hansen JI (1982) Nitrogen cycling and microbial decomposition in sediments with Phragmites australis (poaceae). Hydrobio. Bull. 16: 11–19Google Scholar
  2. Bartlett, MS, Brown LC, Hanes NB & Nickerson NH (1979) Denitrification in freshwater wetland soil. J. Environ. Qual. 8: 460–464Google Scholar
  3. Bowden, WB (1987) The biogeochemistry of nitrogen in freshwater wetlands. Biogeochem. 4: 313–348Google Scholar
  4. Bowden WB. (1986). Nitrification, nitrate reduction, and nitrogen immobilization in a tidal freshwater marsh sediment. Ecology 67: 88–89Google Scholar
  5. Brinson MM, Bradshaw HD & Kane ES (1984) Nutrient assimilative capacity of an alluvial floodplain swamp. J. Appl. Ecol. 21: 1041–1058Google Scholar
  6. Brodrick SJ, Cullen P & Maher W (1988) Denitrification in a natural wetland receiving secondary treated effluent. Water Res. 22: 431–440Google Scholar
  7. DeBusk WF & Reddy KR (1987) Removal of floodwater nitrogen in a cypress swamp receiving primary wastewater effluent. Hydrobiologia 153: 79–86Google Scholar
  8. Davidson EA & Swank WT (1986) Environmental parameters regulating gaseous nitrogen losses from two forested ecosystems via nitrification and denitrification. Appl. Environ. Microbio. 52: 1287–1292Google Scholar
  9. Dierberg FE & Brezonik PL (1983) Nitrogen and phosphorus mass balances in natural and sewage-enriched cypress domes. J. Appl. Ecol. 20: 323–337Google Scholar
  10. Durand JB & Zimmer BJ (1982) Part 1. Pinelands surface water quality. Final Report. 27-4668 SNJ DEP, DWR, Pinelands, 196 ppGoogle Scholar
  11. Gardner WS, Nalepa TF & Malczyk JM (1987) Nitrogen mineralization and denitrification in Lake Michigan sediments. Limnol. Oceanogr. 32: 1226–1238Google Scholar
  12. Gersberg RM, Elkins BV & Goldman CR (1984) Use of artificial wetlands to remove nitrogen from wastewater. J. Water Poll. Control. Fed. 56: 152–156Google Scholar
  13. Giblin AE, Hopkinson CS & Tucker J (1992) Metabolism and nutrient cycling in Boston Harbor sediments. MWRA Environm. Quality Dept. Tech. Rep. Series No. 92-1, Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, Boston, MA, 42 ppGoogle Scholar
  14. Gordon AS, Cooper WJ & Scheidt DJ (1986) Denitrification in marl and peat sediments in the Florida Everglades. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 52: 987–991Google Scholar
  15. Groffman PM & Tiedje JM (1988) Denitrification hysteresis during wetting and drying cycles in soil. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 52: 1626–1629Google Scholar
  16. Groffman PM, Axelrod EA, Lemunyon JL & Sullivan WM (1991) Denitrification in grass and forest vegetated filter strips. J. Environ. Qual. 20: 671–674Google Scholar
  17. Groffman PM, Zak DR, Christensen S, Mosier A & Tiedje JM (1993) Early spring nitrogen dynamics in a temperate forest landscape. Ecology 74: 1579–1592Google Scholar
  18. Hemond HF (1983) The nitrogen budget of Thoreau's bog. Ecology 64: 99–109Google Scholar
  19. Hynes RK & Knowles R (1978) Inhibition by acetylene of ammonia oxidation in Nitrosomonas europaea. FEMS Microbiol. Lett. 4: 319–321Google Scholar
  20. Jenkins MC & Kemp WM (1984) The coupling of nitrification and denitrification in two estuarine sediments. Limnol. Oceanogr. 29: 609–619Google Scholar
  21. Jorgensen RG & Richter GM (1992) Composition of carbon fractions and potential denitrification in drained peat soils. J. Soil Sci. 43: 347–358Google Scholar
  22. Kaplan WA, Valiela I & Teal JM (1979) Denitrification in a salt marsh ecosystem. Limnol. Oceanogr. 24: 726–734Google Scholar
  23. Kemp WM, Sampou P, Caffrey J & Mayer M (1990) Ammonium recycling versus denitrification in Chesapeake Bay sediments. Limnol. Oceanogr. 35: 1545–1563Google Scholar
  24. Knowles R (1982) Denitrification. Microbiol. Rev. 46: 43–70Google Scholar
  25. Koerselman W, De Caluwe H & Kieskamp WM (1989) Denitrification and dinitrogen fixation in two quaking fens in the Vechtplassen area, the Netherlands. Biogeochem. 8: 153–165Google Scholar
  26. Merrill AG & Zak DR (1992) Factors controlling denitrification rates in upland and swamp forests. Can. J. For. Res. 22: 1597–1604Google Scholar
  27. Mitsch WJ & Gosselink JG (1986) Wetlands. Van Nostrand Reinhold Co. Inc., p 537Google Scholar
  28. Morgan MD (1984) Acidification of headwater streams in the New Jersey Pinelands: a re-evaluation. Limnol. Oceanogr. 29: 1259–1266Google Scholar
  29. Morris JT (1991) Effects of nitrogen loading on wetland ecosystems with particular reference to atmospheric deposition. Annu. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 22: 257–279Google Scholar
  30. Muller MM, V Sudman V & Skujins J (1980) Denitrification in low pH spodosols and peats determined with the acetylene inhibition method. Appl. Environ. Microbio. 40: 235–239Google Scholar
  31. Myrold DD & Tiedje JM (1985) Diffusional constraints on denitrification in soil. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 49: 651–657Google Scholar
  32. Nixon S & Lee V (1986) Wetlands and Water Quality. Final Report. Dept. Army. Technical Report Y-86-2. 229 ppGoogle Scholar
  33. Nowicki BL & Oviatt CA (1990) Are estuaries traps for anthropogenic nutrients? Evidence from estuarine mesocosms. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 66: 131–146Google Scholar
  34. Nowicki BL (1994) The effect of temperature, oxygen, salinity and nutrient enrichment on estuarine denitrification rates measured with a modified nitrogen gas flux technique. Estuar. Coastal Shelf Sci. 38 (2): 137–156Google Scholar
  35. Parkin TB (1987) Soil microsites as a source of denitrification variability. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 51: 1194–1199Google Scholar
  36. Patrick WH & Reddy KR (1976) Denitrification reactions in flooded soils and water bottoms: dependence on oxygen supply and ammonium diffusion. J. Environ. Qual. 4: 469–471Google Scholar
  37. Peterjohn WT & Correll DL (1984) Nutrient dynamics in an agricultural watershed: observations on the role of a riparian forest. Ecology 65: 1466–1475Google Scholar
  38. Reddy KR, Patrick WH Jr, Lindau CW (1989) Nitrification-denitrification at the plant root-sediment interface in wetlands. Limnol. Oceanogr. 34: 1004–1013Google Scholar
  39. Revsbech NP, Sorensen J, Blackburn TH & Lomholt JP (1980) Distribution of oxygen in marine sediments measured with microelectrodes. Limnol. Oceanogr. 25: 403–411Google Scholar
  40. Richards F (1965) Anoxic basins and fjords. In: Riley JP & Skirrow G (Eds), Chemical Oceanography, Vol. 1 (pp 611–645). Academic PressGoogle Scholar
  41. Seitzinger SP, Nielsen LP, Caffrey J & Christensen PB (1993) Denitrification measurements in aquatic sediments: a comparison of three methods. Biogeochemistry 23: 147–167Google Scholar
  42. Seitzinger SP (1993) Denitrification and nitrification rates in aquatic sediments. In: Kemp PF, Sherr BF, Sherr EB & Cole JJ (Eds), Handbook of Methods in Aquatic Microbiol Ecol. (pp 633–641). LewisGoogle Scholar
  43. Seitzinger SP (1988) Denitrification in freshwater and coastal marine ecosystems: ecological and geochemical significance. Limnol. Oceanogr. 33: 702–724Google Scholar
  44. Seitzinger SP (1990) Denitrification in aquatic sediments. In: Revsbech NP & Sorensen J (Eds), Denitrification in Soil and Sediment (pp 301–322). Plenum PressGoogle Scholar
  45. Sexstone AJ, Revsbech NP, Parkin TB & Tiedje JM (1985) Direct measurement of oxygen profiles and denitrification rates in soil aggregates. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 49: 645–651Google Scholar
  46. Solorzano L (1969) Determination of ammonia in natural waters by the phenylhypochlorite method. Limnol. Oceanogr. 14: 799–801Google Scholar
  47. Technicon. (1977) Nitrate and nitrite in water and seawater. Method. No. 158-71W/A. Technicon Industrial Systems, Tarytown, NY. 4 ppGoogle Scholar
  48. Tedrow JL (1979) Development of Pine Barrens soils. In: Forman RT (Ed), Pine Barrens: Ecosystems and landscape (pp 61–79). AcademicGoogle Scholar
  49. Tiedje JM, Sexstone AJ, Myrold DD & Robinson JA (1982) Denitrification: ecological niches, competition and survival. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek 48: 569–583Google Scholar
  50. Tilton DL & Kadlec RH (1979) The utilization of a fresh-water wetland for nutrient removal from secondarily treated waste water effluent. J. Environ. Qual. 8: 328–334Google Scholar
  51. Urban, N. R. (1983) The nitrogen cycle in a forested bog watershed in northern Minnesota. M. S. thesis, Univ. Minnesota. 359 ppGoogle Scholar
  52. Urban NR, Eisenreich SJ & Bayley SE (1988) The relative importance of denitrification and nitrate assimilation in midcontinental bogs. Limnol. Oceangr. 33: 1611–1617Google Scholar
  53. Valiela I & Teal JM (1979) The nitrogen budget of a salt marsh ecosystem. Nature 280: 652–656Google Scholar
  54. Verhoeven JTA (1986) Nutrient dynamics in minerotrophic peat mires. Aquatic Botany 25: 117–137Google Scholar
  55. Westermann P & Ahring BK (1987) Dynamics of methane production, sulfate reduction, and denitrification in a permanently waterlogged alder swamp. Appl. Environ. Microbio. 53: 2554–2559Google Scholar
  56. Zak DR & Grigal DF (1991) Nitrogen mineralization, nitrification and denitrification in upland and wetland ecosystems. Oecologia 88: 189–196Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sybil P. Seitzinger
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Environmental ResearchAcademy of Natural SciencesPhiladelphiaUSA

Personalised recommendations