, Volume 90, Issue 3, pp 243–258 | Cite as

Functional role of DNRA and nitrite reduction in a pristine south Chilean Nothofagus forest

  • T. Rütting
  • D. Huygens
  • C. Müller
  • O. Van Cleemput
  • R. Godoy
  • P. Boeckx


Nitrite (NO2 ) is an intermediate in a variety of soil N cycling processes. However, NO2 dynamics are often not included in studies that explore the N cycle in soil. Within the presented study, nitrite dynamics were investigated in a Nothofagus betuloides forest on an Andisol in southern Chile. We carried out a 15N tracing study with six 15N labeling treatments, including combinations of NO3 , NH4 + and NO2 . Gross N transformation rates were quantified with a 15N tracing model in combination with a Markov chain Monte Carlo optimization routine. Our results indicate the occurrence of functional links between (1) NH4 + oxidation, the main process for NO2 production (nitritation), and NO2 reduction, and (2) oxidation of soil organic N, the dominant NO3 production process in this soil, and dissimilatory NO3 reduction to NH4 + (DNRA). The production of NH4 + via DNRA was approximately ten times higher than direct mineralization from recalcitrant soil organic matter. Moreover, the rate of DNRA was several magnitudes higher than the rate of other NO3 reducing processes, indicating that DNRA is able to outcompete denitrification, which is most likely not an important process in this ecosystem. These functional links are most likely adaptations of the microbial community to the prevailing pedo-climatic conditions of this Nothofagus ecosystem.


Nothofagus betuloides 15N tracing model Nitrite (NO2N retention Dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium (DNRA) Markov chain Monte Carlo sampling 



Anaerobic ammonium oxidation


Dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium


Gravimetric water content


Markov chain Monte Carlo


Macro organic matter


Parameter density function


Soil organic matter


Water filled pore space


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • T. Rütting
    • 1
    • 2
  • D. Huygens
    • 3
    • 4
  • C. Müller
    • 1
    • 5
  • O. Van Cleemput
    • 3
  • R. Godoy
    • 6
  • P. Boeckx
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Plant EcologyUniversity of GiessenGiessenGermany
  2. 2.Department of Plant and Environmental SciencesUniversity of GothenburgGothenburgSweden
  3. 3.Laboratory of Applied Physical Chemistry – ISOFYS, Faculty of Bioscience EngineeringGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  4. 4.Instituto de Ingeniería Agraria y SuelosUniversidad Austral de ChileValdiviaChile
  5. 5.School of Biology and Environmental ScienceUCD Dublin Dublin 4Ireland
  6. 6.Institute of BotanyUniversidad Austral de ChileValdiviaChile

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