Biogeochemistry

, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 125–146 | Cite as

Denitrification in a nitrogen-limited stream ecosystem

  • Robert M. Holmes
  • Jeremy B. JonesJr.
  • Stuart G. Fisher
  • Nancy B. Grimm
Article

Abstract

Denitrification was measured in hyporheic, parafluvial, and bank sediments of Sycamore Creek, Arizona, a nitrogen-limited Sonoran Desert stream. We used three variations of the acetylene block technique to estimate denitrification rates, and compared these estimates to rates of nitrate production through nitrification. Subsurface sediments of Sycamore Creek are typically well-oxygenated, relatively low in nitrate, and low in organic carbon, and therefore are seemingly unlikely sites of denitrification. However, we found that denitrification potential (C & N amended, anaerobic incubations) was substantial, and even by our conservative estimates (unamended, oxic incubations and field chamber nitrous oxide accumulation), denitrification consumed 5–40% of nitrate produced by nitrification. We expected that denitrification would increase along hyporheic and parafluvial flowpaths as dissolved oxygen declined and nitrate increased. To the contrary, we found that denitrification was generally highest at the upstream ends of subsurface flowpaths where surface water had just entered the subsurface zone. This suggests that denitrifiers may be dependent on the import of surface-derived organic matter, resulting in highest denitrification rate at locations of surface-subsurface hydrologic exchange. Laboratory experiments showed that denitrification in Sycamore Creek sediments was primarily nitrogen limited and secondarily carbon limited, and was temperature dependent. Overall, the quantity of nitrate removed from the Sycamore Creek ecosystem via denitrification is significant given the nitrogen-limited status of this stream.

Key words

Denitrification stream ecology nutrient dynamics nitrification hyporheic zone parafluvial zone 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Boulton AJ, Valett HM, Fisher SG (1992) Spatial distribution and taxonomic composition of the hyporheos of several Sonoran Desert streams. Arch. Hydrobiol. 125: 37–61Google Scholar
  2. Chatarpaul L, Robinson JB, Kaushik NK (1979) Role of tubificid worms on denitrification and nitrification in stream sediments. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 37: 656–663Google Scholar
  3. Christensen PB, Nielson LP, Sørensen J & Revsbech NP (1990) Denitrification in nitrate-rich streams: diumal and seasonal variation related to benthic oxygen metabolism. Limnol. Oceanogr. 35: 640–651Google Scholar
  4. Davidson EA & Swank WT (1986) Environmental parameters regulating gaseous nitrogen losses from two forested ecosystems via nitrification and denitrification. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 52: 1287–1292Google Scholar
  5. Dawson RN & Murphy KL (1972) The temperature dependence of biological denitrification. Water Res. 7: 71–83Google Scholar
  6. Duff JH, Triska FJ & Oremland RS (1984) Denitrification associated with stream periphyton: chamber estimates from undisrupted communities. J. Environ. Qual. 13: 514–518Google Scholar
  7. Duff JH & Triska FJ (1990) Denitrification in sediments from the hyporheic zone adjacent to a small forested stream. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 47: 1140–1147Google Scholar
  8. Fuller WH (1975) Soils of the Desert Soutwest. University of Arizona Press, TucsonGoogle Scholar
  9. Graf WL (1988) Fluvial processes in dryland rivers. Springer-Verlag, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  10. Grimm NB & Fisher SG (1984) Exchange between surface and interstitial water. implications for stream metabolism and nutrient cycling. Hydrobiologia 111: 219–228Google Scholar
  11. Grimm NB & Fisher SG (1986) Nitrogen limitation in a Sonoran Desert stream. J. N. Am. Benthol. Soc. 5: 2–15Google Scholar
  12. Grimm NB, Valett HM, Stanley EH & SG Fisher (1991) Contribution of the hyporheic zone to stability of an arid-land stream. Verh. Internat. Verein. Limnol. 24: 1595–1599Google Scholar
  13. Hill AR & Sanmugadas K (1985) Denitrification rates in relation to stream sediment characteristics. Water Res. 19: 1579–1586Google Scholar
  14. Holmes RM, Fisher SG & Grimm NB (1994a) Parafluvial nitrogen dynamics in a desert stream ecosystem. J. N. Am. Benthol. Soc. 13: 468–478Google Scholar
  15. Holmes RM, Fisher SG & Grimm NB (1994b) Nitrogen dynamics along parafluvial flowpaths: importance to the stream ecosystem. In: Stanford J & Valett HM (Eds) Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Ground Water Ecology (pp 47–56). American Water Resources Association, Herndon, Virginia, USAGoogle Scholar
  16. Hynes RK & Knowles R (1978) Inhibition by acetylene of ammonia oxidation inNitrosomonas europea. FEMS Microbiol. Lett. 4: 319–321Google Scholar
  17. Jacobs TC & JW Gilliam (1985) Riparian losses of nitrate from agricultural drainage waters. J. Environ. Qual. 14. 472–478Google Scholar
  18. Jansson M, Leonardson L, Fejes J (1994) Denitrification and nitrogen retention in a farmland stream in southern Sweden. Ambio 23: 326–331Google Scholar
  19. Jones JB Jr, Fisher SG & Grimm NB (1995a) Vertical hydrologic exchange and ecosystem metabolism in a Sonoran Desert stream. Ecology 76: 942–952Google Scholar
  20. Jones JB Jr & Holmes RM (in press) Surface-subsurface interactions in stream ecosystems. Trends Ecol. Evol.Google Scholar
  21. Jones JB Jr, Holmes RM, Fisher SG, Grimm NB & Greene DM (1995b) Methanogenesis in Sonoran Desert stream ecosystems. Biogeochemistry 31: 155–173 Jørgensen KS & Tiedje JM (1993) Survival of denitrifiers in nitrate-free, anaerobic environments. Appl. Environ. Microb. 59: 3297–3305Google Scholar
  22. Knowles R (1982) Denitrification. Microbiol. Rev. 46: 43–70Google Scholar
  23. Krumbein WE & Swart PK (1983) The microbial carbon cycle. In: Krumbein WE (Ed) Microbial Geochemistry. Blackwell Scientific Publications, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  24. Lee DR & Cherry JA (1978) A field exercise on groundwater flow using seepage meters and mini-piezometers. J. Geol. Edu. 27: 6–10Google Scholar
  25. Likens GE (1981) Some perspectives of the major biogeochemical cycles. Pitman Press, Bath sheds in the southeastern coastal plain. Ecology 66: 287–296Google Scholar
  26. Lowrance RR, Leonard RA & Asmussen LE (1985) Nutrient budgets for agricultural watersheds in the southeastern coastal plain. Ecology 66: 287–296Google Scholar
  27. Matson PA & Vitousek PM (1990) Ecosystem approach to a global nitrous oxide budget. BioScience 40: 667–672Google Scholar
  28. McCarty PL (1972) Energetics of organic matter degredation. In: Mitchell R (Ed) Water Pollution Microbiology (pp 91–118). Wiley Interscience, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  29. Messer J & Brezonik PL (1984) Laboratory evaluation of kinetic parameters for lake sediment denitrification models. Ecol. Model. 21: 277–286Google Scholar
  30. Payne WJ (1973) Reduction of nitrogenous oxides by microorganisms. Bacteriol. Rev. 37: 409–452Google Scholar
  31. Peterjohn WT (1991) Denitrification: enzyme content and activity in desert soils. Soil Biol. Biochem. 23: 845–855Google Scholar
  32. Peterjohn WT & Correll DL (1984) Nutrient dynamics in an agricultural watershed: observations on the role of a riparian forest. Ecology 65: 1466–1475Google Scholar
  33. Peterjohn WT & Schlesinger WH (1990) Nitrogen loss from deserts in the southwestern United States. Biogeochemistry 10: 67–79Google Scholar
  34. Pinay G, Haycock NE, Ruffinoni C & Holmes RM (1994) The role of denitrification in nitrogen retention in river corridors. In: Mitsch WJ (Ed) Global Wetlands: Old World and New (pp 107–116). Elsevier, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  35. Pinay G, Rogues L & Fabre A (1993) Spatial and temporal patterns of denitrification in a riparian forest. J. Appl. Ecol. 30: 581–591Google Scholar
  36. Schlesinger WH (1991) Biogeochemistry. Academic Press, San Diego Seitzinger SP (1988) Denitrification in freshwater and coastal ecosystems: ecological and geochemical significance. Linmol. Oceanogr. 33: 702–724Google Scholar
  37. Seitzinger SP (1988) Denitrification in freshwater and coastal ecosystems: ecological and geochemical significance. Linmol. Oceanogr. 33: 702–724Google Scholar
  38. Stanford FA & Ward JV (1988) The hyporheic habitat of river ecosystems. Nature 335: 64–66Google Scholar
  39. Stanley EH & Boulton AJ (1995) Hyporheic processes during flooding and drying in a Sonoran Desert stream. I. Hydrologic and chemical dynamics. Arch. Hydrobiol. 134: 1–26Google Scholar
  40. Solorzano L (1969) Determination of ammonia in natural waters by the phenolhypochlorite method. Limnol. Oceanogr. 14: 799–801Google Scholar
  41. SYSTAT Inc (1992) SYSTAT for Windows: Statistics, Version 5 Edition. Evanston, IllinoisGoogle Scholar
  42. Tiedje JM, Simkins S & Groffman PM (1989) Perspectives on measurement of denitrification in the field including recommended protocols for acetylene based methods. In: Clarholm M & Bergström L (Eds) Ecology of arable land (pp 217–240). Kluwer Academic Publishers, DordrechtGoogle Scholar
  43. Triska FJ, Duff JH & Avanzino RJ (1993) Patterns of hydrological exchange and nutrient transformation in the hyporheic zone of a gravel-bottom stream: examining terrestrial aquatic linkages. Freshwater Biol. 29: 259–274Google Scholar
  44. Triska FJ, Duff JH & Avanzino RJ (1990) Influence of exchange flow between the channel and hyporheic zone on nitrate production in a small mountain stream. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 47: 2099–2111Google Scholar
  45. Triska FJ, Kennedy VC, Avanzino RJ, Zellweger GW & Bencala KE (1989) Retention and transport of nutrients in a third-order stream in northwestern California: hyporheic processes. Ecology 70: 1893–1905Google Scholar
  46. Triska FJ & Oremland RS (1981) Denitrification associated with periphyton communities. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 42: 745–748Google Scholar
  47. Valett HM, Fisher SG, Grimm NB & Camill P (1994) Vertical hydrologic exchange and ecological stability of a desert stream ecosystem. Ecology 75: 548–560Google Scholar
  48. Valett HM, Fisher SG & Stanley EH (1990) Physical and chemical characteristics of the hyporheic zone of a Sonoran Desert stream. J. N. Am. Benthol. Soc. 9: 201–215Google Scholar
  49. Virginia RA, Jarrell WM & Franco-Vizcaino E (1982) Direct measurement of denitrification in aProsopis (Mesquite) dominated Sonoran Desert ecosystem. Oecologia 53: 120–122Google Scholar
  50. Wertz JB (1963) Mechanisms of erosion and deposition along channelways. J. Ariz. Acad. Sci. 2: 146–163Google Scholar
  51. Yoshinari T & Knowles R (1976) Acetylene inhibition of nitrous oxide reduction by denitrifying bacteria. Biochem. Biophys. Res. Comm. 69: 705–710Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert M. Holmes
    • 1
  • Jeremy B. JonesJr.
    • 1
  • Stuart G. Fisher
    • 1
  • Nancy B. Grimm
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyArizona State UniversityTempeUSA

Personalised recommendations