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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 493:23-30 (2013)  -  DOI:

Oyster-mediated benthic-pelagic coupling modifies nitrogen pools and processes

Ashley R. Smyth1,2,*, Nathan R. Geraldi1, Michael F. Piehler1

1The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Institute of Marine Sciences, 3431 Arendell St. Morehead City, North Carolina 28557, USA
2Department of Biological Sciences, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William and Mary, Gloucester Point, Virginia 23062, USA

ABSTRACT: Removal of nitrogen through enhanced denitrification has been identified as an ecosystem service provided by oysters. In this study, we assessed the effects of an individual oyster (Crassostrea virginica) on nitrogen dynamics. Fluxes of N2, O2, nitrate/nitrite (NOx) and ammonium (NH4+) were measured from continuous-flow microcosms that contained a live oyster, sediment, or a live oyster + sediment. Net N2 fluxes were indicative of nitrogen fixation in the sediment treatment and denitrification in the oyster and oyster + sediment treatments. Organic matter deposition and ammonium production associated with oyster biodeposits and excretion likely decreased N limitation, and thus the demand for fixation of new nitrogen, while increasing nitrification and subsequent denitrification. Oyster-mediated denitrification accounted for 48% of the total inorganic nitrogen efflux in the oyster microcosms and 35% in the oyster + sediment microcosms. Despite high rates of ammonium production, inclusion of the eastern oyster did not increase the pool of bioavailable nitrogen but shifted the microcosms from a nitrogen source to a nitrogen sink.

KEY WORDS: Crassostrea virginica · Denitrification · Nitrogen · Nitrogen fixation

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Cite this article as: Smyth AR, Geraldi NR, Piehler MF (2013) Oyster-mediated benthic-pelagic coupling modifies nitrogen pools and processes. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 493:23-30.

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