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The Effects of Oxygen Transition on Community Respiration and Potential Chemoautotrophic Production in a Seasonally Stratified Anoxic Estuary


To assess the effects of seasonal oxygen transition on microbial metabolism, we measured spatiotemporal changes in total dissolved inorganic carbon, respiratory products, and geochemical constituents in the mesohaline region of Chesapeake Bay from May to October 2010. Vertical redox zonation was examined, and a spatial transect survey was also conducted from the southern to northern limit of the mesohaline region in July providing an alternative approach for assessing the temporal dynamics of oxygen transition. The transitions from oxic to hypoxic to anoxic and back to oxic were illustrated by the pattern of nitrogen redox species. Respiration, measured from changes in total dissolved inorganic carbon (∆DIC) and dissolved oxygen (∆DO) during incubations, had an average respiratory quotient (∆DIC/∆DO) of 1.04 ± 0.06 under oxic conditions and 1.58 ± 0.48 under hypoxic conditions. The difference in the respiratory quotients suggested that oxygen-based respiration measurements would underestimate community respiration rates in hypoxic conditions. In the present study, we observed within the surface-mixed layer three- to sevenfold differences in temporal and vertical variation of community respiration, while net respiration across oxyclines and anaerobic respiration in deep waters had lower rates and variability. In some anoxic samples, there was a net decrease in dissolved inorganic carbon that was exacerbated with experimental augmentation of terminal electron acceptors. Potential carbon fixation rates of chemoautotrophs within and below oxyclines were estimated and ranged from 0.63 to 116.9 mg C m−2 day−1 depending on growth conditions. These results indicate that anaerobic metabolism during the seasonal anoxic transition and at oxic/anoxic interface can play an important role in the estuarine carbon cycle.

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We thank Bernadette Gross, Molly George, Debbie Hinkle, and the captain and crew of the R/V Hugh R. Sharp for their assistance in collecting the samples and analyzing the data. We also thank Todd Kana, Alyson Santoro, and two anonymous reviewers for providing helpful suggestions and many useful comments on the manuscript. Yongchen Wang who dedicated his scientific career to the understanding of carbon cycles provided invaluable help with DIC analysis and greatly improved the quality of our DIC measurement. This work was supported by the National Science Foundation (Grant OCE-0961920). This is UMCES contribution 4882.

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Correspondence to Dong Y. Lee.

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Communicated by Alberto Vieira Borges

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Lee, D.Y., Owens, M.S., Doherty, M. et al. The Effects of Oxygen Transition on Community Respiration and Potential Chemoautotrophic Production in a Seasonally Stratified Anoxic Estuary. Estuaries and Coasts 38, 104–117 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12237-014-9803-8

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  • Respiration
  • Hypoxia
  • Dissolved inorganic carbon
  • Chemoautotrophy
  • Chesapeake Bay