, Volume 11, Issue 7, pp 1168–1180 | Cite as

Net Sediment N2 Fluxes in a Coastal Marine System—Experimental Manipulations and a Conceptual Model

  • Robinson W. Fulweiler
  • Scott W. Nixon
  • Betty A. Buckley
  • Stephen L. Granger


Environmental factors, including the supply of organic matter and inorganic nutrient concentrations, are thought to influence rates of two opposing processes in the nitrogen (N) cycle, denitrification and N fixation. Using sediment cores from a temperate estuary we examined the effects of nitrate, phosphate, and ammonium enrichment of the overlying water on the net N2 flux across the sediment–water interface. In addition, we used sediment cores and large marine mesocosms to determine the effect of organic matter amendment. The addition of nitrate (50 μM), ammonium (50 μM), and phosphate (10 μM) to the overlying water had no effect on the net N2 flux. However, high ammonium fluxes (145 μmol m−2 h−1) were observed in the nitrate-amended cores, which is suggestive of dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium. Organic matter enrichment first increased rates of N fixation, but ultimately switched the sediments from being a net source (N fixation dominated) to a net sink (denitrification dominated) of N. We observed a threshold where N fixation took place when organic matter deposition fell below about 0.3 g C m−2 day−1. On the basis of these results and the findings of others, we developed a conceptual model that links net sediment N2 flux with the organic matter production of a system.


sediment N2 fluxes nitrogen fixation denitrification organic matter inorganic nutrients dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium Narragansett Bay 



This research was supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0554548 through the RI EPSCoR program, the R.I. Sea Grant College Program (NOAA), R.I. Coastal Resource Management Council, the Coastal Hypoxia Research Program (CHRP) (NOAA), and the Switzer Foundation. We acknowledge and appreciate the assistance of J. Cornwell, M. Owens, and J. Seabrease of the University of Maryland. R.W.F. would like to thank Dr. R. Twilley for postdoctoral funding and the opportunity to complete this manuscript. This manuscript was improved with helpful comments from A. Giblin, C. Oviatt, A. Gold, P. Groffman, and two anonymous reviewers.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robinson W. Fulweiler
    • 1
  • Scott W. Nixon
    • 2
  • Betty A. Buckley
    • 2
  • Stephen L. Granger
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Oceanography and Coastal SciencesLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA
  2. 2.Graduate School of OceanographyUniversity of Rhode IslandNarragansettUSA

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