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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 237:41-50 (2002)  -  doi:10.3354/meps237041

Dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium (DNRA) as a nitrogen link, versus denitrification as a sink in a shallow estuary (Laguna Madre/Baffin Bay, Texas)

Soonmo An*, Wayne S. Gardner

The University of Texas at Austin, Marine Science Institute, 750 Channel View Drive, Port Aransas, Texas 78373, USA
*Present address: Kyungnam University, Department of Environmental Engineering, Masan, Kyungnam, South Korea 631-701. E-mail:

ABSTRACT: Rates of nitrate (NO3-) reduction to nitrogen gas (N2) and ammonium (NH4+) were measured in August and December 1999 on intact cores (Laguna Madre and Baffin Bay, Texas) using flowing seawater enriched with 15NO3-. The combination of membrane inlet mass spectrometry (MIMS) and high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) allowed accurate and simple estimation of these 2 dissimilatory pathways of NO3- reduction. NO3- enrichment (~100 µM 15NO3-) did not stimulate denitrification (mean ± SE = 55 ± 16 and 69 ± 15 [Aug 99], -11 ± 16 and 11 ± 18 [Dec 99] µmolN m-2 h-1 before and after 15NO3- addition, respectively; n = 8). However, 15NH4+ production rates increased after the 15NO3- addition (69 ± 14 [Aug 99], 50 ± 9 [Dec 99] µmolN m-2 h-1), comprised about 1/3 of total NH4+ flux, and were comparable to denitrification rates. A larger portion of added 15NO3- was converted to 15NH4+ (15 to 75%) than to N2 (29+30N2; 5 to 29%) on both sampling dates. High dissimilatory NO3- reduction to NH4+ (DNRA) and low denitrification suggest that sulfide may influence the processes. High sulfide concentrations inhibit nitrification and denitrification but may enhance DNRA by providing an electron donor. Inhibited denitrification and enhanced DNRA may preserve available nitrogen in Laguna Madre/Baffin Bay, which has limited water exchange with other bodies of water.

KEY WORDS: Dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium · DNRA · Denitrification · Brown tide · Nitrogen conservation · Laguna Madre/Baffin Bay

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