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The contribution of denitrification and anaerobic ammonium oxidation to N2 production in mangrove sediments in Southeast China



Mangrove forests, common in subtropical coastal regions, are known for their nitrogen (N) buffering capacity. The aims of this study were to examine temporal and spatial variations in denitrification and anaerobic ammonium oxidation (anammox) in mangrove sediments and to assess their contributions to nitrogen gas (N2) release.

Materials and methods

Cores of undisturbed mangrove sediments were collected during low tide. The potential anammox and denitrification rates were estimated by quantifying three forms of N2 produced in a strictly anaerobic incubation of sediment with labeled K15NO3 as the reactive substrate. Water samples from above the sediments were collected and analyzed for ammonium, nitrite, and nitrate concentrations.

Results and discussion

Denitrification and anammox were more active in summer. The contributions of anammox to total N2 in mangrove sediments were 42–70% (summer), 5–57% (autumn), and 26–43% (winter), respectively. There was no significant difference (P > 0.05) between seasons. Denitrification was the major mechanism of N loss overall; however, anammox was higher in the mangrove sediments in summer. Between 3.5 and 41.2% of dissolved inorganic nitrogen in the overlying water was converted to N2, which accounted for between 9 and 22% of the total N2 produced.


Denitrification and anammox operate simultaneously and make a significant contribution to the production and removal of N2 from mangrove systems. Denitrification was the major mechanism of N loss overall; however, anammox was not negligible in summer.

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We gratefully acknowledge the funding for this study from the National Basic Research Program of China through grant 2013CB956101 and Natural Science Foundation of China (41175130). We would also like to thank three reviewers for their valuable comments on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Wenzhi Cao.

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Responsible editor: Haihan Zhang

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Cao, W., Guan, Q., Li, Y. et al. The contribution of denitrification and anaerobic ammonium oxidation to N2 production in mangrove sediments in Southeast China. J Soils Sediments 17, 1767–1776 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11368-017-1653-0

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  • 15N
  • Anammox
  • Denitrification
  • DIN
  • Mangrove sediments