Antonie van Leeuwenhoek

, Volume 48, Issue 6, pp 569–583 | Cite as

Denitrification: ecological niches, competition and survival

  • James M. Tiedje
  • Alan J. Sexstone
  • David D. Myrold
  • Joseph A. Robinson
Denitrification: Recent Advances and Future Directions


Organisms with the denitrification capacity are widely distributed and in high density in nature. It is not well understood why they are so successful. A survey of denitrifying enzyme content of various habitats is presented which indicates a role of carbon and oxygen, but not nitrate, in affecting denitrifier populations. It is suggested that organic carbon is more important than oxygen status in determining denitrifying enzyme content of habitats. In low oxygen environments, denitrifiers compete with organisms that dissimilate nitrate to ammonium, a process which conserves nitrogen. The energetic and kinetic parameters that affect this competition are evaluated. The latter is examined using Michaelis-Menten theoretical models by varying Vmax, Km, and So (substrate concentration) for the two competing populations. The outcome predicted by these models is presented and discussed in relation to previous data on population densities and Km values for representatives of these competing groups. These models suggest the conditions required to achieve changes in partitioning between the two fates of nitrate. These considerations are important if one is to be able to evaluate and successfully “manage” the fate of nitrate in any habitat.


Oxygen Nitrogen Ammonium Nitrate Organic Carbon 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bleakley, B. H. 1981. Non-denitrifying biological sources of nitrous oxide. M.S. Thesis, Michigan State Univ., E. Lansing, MI.Google Scholar
  2. Burden, R. L., Faires, J. D. and Reynolds, A. C., 1978. p. 116–120 and 239–245. In Numerical analysis. — Prindle, Weber and Schmidt, Boston.Google Scholar
  3. Caskey, W. H. and Tiedje, J. M. 1979. Evidence for clostridia as agents of dissimilatory reduction of nitrate to ammonium in soils. — Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 43: 931–936.Google Scholar
  4. Caskey, W. H. and Tiedje, J. M. 1980. The reduction of nitrate to ammonium by a Clostridium sp. isolated from soil. — J. Gen. Microbiol. 119: 217–223.Google Scholar
  5. Cole, J. A. and Brown, C. M. 1980. Nitrate reduction to ammonia by fermentative bacteria: a short circuit in the biological nitrogen cycle. — FEMS Microbiol. Lett. 7: 65–72.Google Scholar
  6. Dunn, G. M., Herbert, R. A. and Brown, C. M. 1979. Influence of oxygen tension on nitrate reduction by Klebsiella sp. growing in chemostat culture. — J. Gen. Microbiol. 112: 379–383.Google Scholar
  7. Edwards, R. M. and Tiedje, J. M. 1981. Determination of Km for dissimilatory nitrate reduction by cells of Pseudomonas fluorescens. — Abstr. Annu. Meet. Am. Soc. Microbiol. p. 181: N48.Google Scholar
  8. Firestone, M. K. 1982. Biological denitrification. p. 289–326. In A. L. Page (ed.), Nitrogen in agricultural soils. Agron. Monograph No. 22. — Am. Soc. Agron., Madison.Google Scholar
  9. Gamble, T. N., Betlach, M. R. and Tiedje, J. M. 1977. Numerically dominant denitrifying bacteria from world soils. — Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 33: 926–939.Google Scholar
  10. Garcia, J. L. 1977. Analyse de differents groupes composant la microflore dénitrifiante des sols de rizière de Sénégal. — Ann. Microbiol. (Paris) (Inst. Pasteur) 128A: 433–446.Google Scholar
  11. Garcia, J. L. and Tiedje, J. M. 1982. Denitrification in rice soils. p. 187–200. In Y. Dommergues and H. Diem (eds), Microbiology of tropical soils and plant productivity. — Martinus Nijhoff Publ., The Hague, In press.Google Scholar
  12. Healey, F. P. 1980. Slope of Monod equation as an indicator of advantage in nutrient competition. — Microb. Ecol. 5: 281–286.Google Scholar
  13. Kaspar, H. F. 1982. Denitrification in marine sediment: measurement of capacity and estimate of in situ rate. — Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 43: 522–527.Google Scholar
  14. Kaspar, H. F. and Tiedje, J. M. 1981. Dissimilatory reduction of nitrate and nitrite in the bovine rumen: nitrous oxide production and effect of acetylene. — Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 41: 705–709.Google Scholar
  15. Kaspar, H. F., Tiedje, J. M. and Firestone, R. B. 1981. Denitrification and dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium in digested sludge. — Can. J. Microbiol. 27: 878–885.Google Scholar
  16. Keeney, D. R., Chen, R. L. and Graetz, D. A. 1971. Importance of denitrification and nitrate reduction in sediments to the nitrogen budgets of lakes. — Nature 233: 66–67.Google Scholar
  17. Koike, J. and Hattori, A. 1978. Denitrification and ammonia formation in anaerobic coastal sediments. — Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 35: 278–282.Google Scholar
  18. Okereke, G. U. 1978. Utilization and production of N2O by denitrifiers isolated from different soil environments and effect of pH on the rates and products of denitrification. — M.S. Thesis, Michigan State Univ., E. Lansing.Google Scholar
  19. Payne, W. J. 1981. Denitrification. — John Wiley and Sons, New York.Google Scholar
  20. Payne, W. J. and Balderston, W. L. 1978. Denitrification. p. 339–342. In D. Schlessinger (ed.), Microbiology 1978. — Am. Soc. Microbiol, Washington.Google Scholar
  21. Rao, K. P. and Rains, D. W. 1976. Nitrate absorption by barley I. Kinetics and energetics. —Plant Physiol. 57: 55–58.Google Scholar
  22. Reddy, K. R., Patrick, W. H. and Phillips, R. E. 1980. Evaluation of selected processes controlling nitrogen losses in a flooded soil. — Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 44: 1241–1246.Google Scholar
  23. Smith, K. A. 1980. A model of the extent of anaerobic zones in aggregrated soils, and its potential application to estimates of denitrification. — J. Soil Sci. 31: 263–277.Google Scholar
  24. Smith, M. S. and Tiedje, J. M. 1979. Phases of denitrification following oxygen depletion in soil. — Biol. Biochem. 11: 261–267.Google Scholar
  25. Smith, M. S. and Tiedje, J. M. 1980. Growth and survival of antibiotic-resistant denitrifier strains in soil. — Can. J. Microbiol. 26: 854–856.Google Scholar
  26. Smith, M. S. and Zimmerman, K. 1981. Nitrous oxide production by nondenitrifying soil nitrate reducers. — Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 45: 865–871.Google Scholar
  27. Sørensen, J. 1978. Capacity for denitrification and reduction of nitrate to ammonia in a coastal marine sediment. — Appl. Microbiol. 35: 301–305.Google Scholar
  28. Thauer, R. K., Jungmann, K and Decker, K. 1977. Energy conservation in chemotrophic anaerobic bacteria. — Bacteriol. Rev. 41: 100–180.Google Scholar
  29. Van't Riet, J. and Planta, R. J. 1969. Purification and some properties of the membrane-bound respiratory nitrate reductase of Aerobacter aerogenes. — FEBS Lett. 5: 249–252.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© H. Veenman & Zonen 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • James M. Tiedje
    • 1
    • 2
  • Alan J. Sexstone
    • 1
    • 2
  • David D. Myrold
    • 1
    • 2
  • Joseph A. Robinson
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Microbiology and Public HealthMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  2. 2.Department of Crop and Soil SciencesMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

Personalised recommendations