Journal of Soils and Sediments

, Volume 17, Issue 10, pp 2537–2546 | Cite as

An overlooked nitrogen loss linked to anaerobic ammonium oxidation in estuarine sediments in China

  • Xiao-Ru Yang
  • Bo-Sen Weng
  • Hu Li
  • Christopher W. Marshall
  • Hong Li
  • Yong-Shan Chen
  • Shen Yu
  • Gui-Bing Zhu
  • Yong-Guan ZhuEmail author
Sediments, Sec 2 • Physical and Biogeochemical Processes • Research Article



Despite its importance, anammox (anaerobic ammonium oxidation) in estuarine sediment systems remains poorly understood, particularly at the continental scale. This study aimed to understand the abundance, diversity, and activity of anammox bacteria and to determine the main factors influencing the anammox process in estuarine sediments in China.

Materials and methods

Estuarine sediments were collected from 18 estuaries spanning over 4000 km. Experiments using an 15 N–tracer, quantitative PCR, and clone library construction were used to determine the activity, abundance, and diversity of anammox bacteria. The impact of environmental factors on anammox processes was also determined.

Results and discussion

The abundance of the anammox-specific hydrazine synthase (hzsB) gene ranged from 1.8 × 105 ± 3.4 × 104 to 3.6 × 108 ± 7.5 × 107 copies g−1 dw. Candidatus Scalindua, Brocadia, Kuenenia, Jettenia, and two novel unidentified clusters were detected, with Scalindua dominating the anammox population. Additionally, the abundances of Scalindua, Kuenenia, and Brocadia were found to be significantly correlated with latitude. The anammox rates ranged from 0.29 ± 0.15 to 13.68 ± 3.98 nmol N g−1 dw h−1 and contributed to 2.39–82.61% of total N2 production. Pearson correlation analysis revealed that the anammox rate was positively correlated with total nitrogen, total carbon, and temperature, and was negatively correlated with dissolved oxygen (DO). The key factors influencing the hzsB gene abundance were ammonium concentration, salinity, and DO. Ammonium concentration, pH, temperature, and latitude were main variables shaping the anammox-associated bacterial community.


Our results suggested that anammox bacteria are ubiquitous in coastal estuaries in China and underline the importance of anammox resulting in N loss at a continental scale.


Activity Anammox Estuarine sediments N loss Spatial variation 



This study was financially supported by the Natural Science Foundation of China (41401297, 41571130063), the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (2014M551846), and the International Science & Technology Cooperation Program of China (2011DFB91710).

Supplementary material

11368_2017_1728_MOESM1_ESM.docx (692 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 691 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xiao-Ru Yang
    • 1
  • Bo-Sen Weng
    • 1
  • Hu Li
    • 1
  • Christopher W. Marshall
    • 2
    • 3
  • Hong Li
    • 4
  • Yong-Shan Chen
    • 1
  • Shen Yu
    • 1
  • Gui-Bing Zhu
    • 5
  • Yong-Guan Zhu
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Urban Environment and Health, Institute of Urban EnvironmentChinese Academy of SciencesXiamenChina
  2. 2.Department of SurgeryUniversity of ChicagoChicagoUSA
  3. 3.Biosciences DivisionArgonne National LaboratoryLemontUSA
  4. 4.Lancaster Environment CentreLancaster UniversityLancasterUK
  5. 5.Key Laboratory of Drinking Water Science and Technology, Research Center for Eco-Environmental SciencesChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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