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The effects of sediment slurrying on microbial processes, and the role of amino acids as substrates for sulfate reduction in anoxic marine sediments

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In sediment slurry experiments with anoxic marine sediments collected in Cape Lookout Bight, NC, and a site in mid-Chesapeake Bay, the rates of sulfate reduction and ammonium production decrease with increasing dilution of sediment with oxygen-free sea-water. The effect of sediment dilution on the rates of these processes can be described by a simple mathematical relationship, and when these rates are corrected for sediment dilution they yield values which agree well with direct measurements of these processes.

In sediment slurry studies of amino acid utilization in Cape Lookout Bight sediments, the fermentative decarboxylation of glutamic acid (to γ-aminobutyric acid) or aspartic acid (to alanine or β-alanine) did not occur when either of these amino acids were added to Cape Lookout Bight slurries. The addition of glutamic acid did however lead to a small (∼1) transient build-up of β-aminoglutaric acid. Measured rates of glutamic acid uptake in these slurries also decreased with increasing sediment dilution.

Molybdate inhibition experiments demonstrated that dissolved free amino acids represent 1–3% of the carbon sources/electron donors used for sulfate reduction in Cape Lookout Bight sediments. The direct oxidation of amino acids by sulfate reducing bacteria also accounts for 13–20% of the total ammonium produced. Glutamic acid, alanine, β-aminoglutaric acid, aspartic acid and asparagine are the major amino acids oxidized by sulfate reducing bacteria in Cape Lookout Bight sediments.

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Burdige, D.J. The effects of sediment slurrying on microbial processes, and the role of amino acids as substrates for sulfate reduction in anoxic marine sediments. Biogeochemistry 8, 1–23 (1989). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02180164

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Key words

  • amino acids
  • ammonium production
  • coastal marine sediments
  • anoxic
  • sulfate reduction