, Volume 135, Issue 1–2, pp 103–119 | Cite as

Seasonal benthic nitrogen cycling in a temperate shelf sea: the Celtic Sea

  • V. KitidisEmail author
  • K. Tait
  • J. Nunes
  • I. Brown
  • E. M. S. Woodward
  • C. Harris
  • A. J. M. Sabadel
  • D. B. Sivyer
  • B. Silburn
  • S. Kröger


We undertook a seasonal study of benthic N-cycling on the Celtic Sea continental shelf in 2015, augmented by an earlier cruise in 2014. Two cruises in 2015 were centred before and after the Spring phytoplankton bloom and a further cruise was carried out in late summer. Five sites covering the mud to sand continuum were visited on all cruises, where we determined ammonium-oxidation, anammox and denitrification rates, expression of anammox and denitrification genes, N-nutrient fluxes and sediment porewater profiles of N-nutrients. Highest process rates were found during the post-bloom and late summer periods. The Celtic Sea was overwhelmingly a source of inorganic-N to the overlying water column. The efflux of nitrate was controlled by the magnitude of ammonium-oxidation. The latter accounted for 10–16% of total Oxygen consumption in cohesive sediments and 35–56% in sandy sediments. Ammonium oxidation rates in the range of 0.001–2.288 mmol m−2 days−1 were inversely correlated with sediment porosity and positively correlated with organic matter content (OM) which together explained 66% of the variance in rates. N-removal was dominated by anammox (0.003–0.636 mmol m−2 days−1), rather than denitrification (0.000–0.034 mmol m−2 days−1). This finding was supported by the corresponding gene expression data. The expression of hydrazine oxidoreductase (anammox) was significantly correlated with anammox and total N-removal rates. Anammox was positively correlated with porosity and OM, whilst denitrification was correlated with OM. The N-requirement of these processes was largely met through nitrification (ammonium-oxidation) rather than influx from the overlying water column. We estimated that N-removal via denitrification and anammox removed 6–9% of the organic-N deposited at the sea-floor from the overlying water column. The Celtic Sea system was thereby losing N which must be replenished on an annual basis in order to sustain productivity.


Shelf-seas N-cycle Sediment Nitrification Denitrification Anammox 



We would like to thank two anonymous reviewers for the constructive reviews of this manuscript. This work was conducted under Work-packages 1 and 2 of the Shelf Sea Biogeochemistry programme (SSB WP2, [NE/K00204X/1 and NE/K002058/1], 2011-2017), jointly funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent those of NERC or Defra.


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Plymouth Marine LaboratoryPlymouthUK
  2. 2.Department of ChemistryUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand
  3. 3.Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS)LowestoftUK

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