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Diurnal variation of nitrogen cycling in coastal, marine sediments

I. Denitrification


Denitrification was studied in the sediment of a shallow, Danish estuary in the spring and summer of 1982 and 1983. The acetylene blockage technique was used in undisturbed cores to estimate the in-situ activity of the process. A declining rate of denitrification was observed at the onset of the growth season when the allochthonous input of nitrate levelled off; the denitrification decreased from 5.1 mmol N m-2 d-1 in the early spring (April) to 0.3 mmol N m-2 d-1 in the early summer (June). The activity in the uppermost centimeter comprised more than 70% of the total. In this surface zone, a diurnal pulse of oxygen production from photosynthesis of benthic microalgae was found to affect the denitrification; the later had a distinct minimum in the day when the oxygen production was high and inhibitory. The subsequent, nocturnal stimulation of the denitrification was typically a factor of three or more in the investigated periods. We propose that oxygen is an important control factor for the daily, in-situ denitrification in shallow estuaries where light is adequate to reach the sediment. The availability of nitrate seems more important as a control factor for the seasonal variation of the process.

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Communicated by T. Fenchel, Aarhus

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Andersen, T.K., Jensen, M.H. & Sørensen, J. Diurnal variation of nitrogen cycling in coastal, marine sediments. Mar. Biol. 83, 171–176 (1984).

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  • Photosynthesis
  • Denitrification
  • Acetylene
  • Microalgae
  • Diurnal Variation