Oxygen sensitivity of anammox and coupled N-cycle processes in oxygen minimum zones

Tim Kalvelage, Marlene Mark Jensen, Sergio Contreras, Niels Peter Revsbech, Phyllis Lam, Marcel Günter, Julie LaRoche, Gaute Lavik, Marcel M. M. Kuypers

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    Abstract

    Nutrient measurements indicate that 30–50% of the total nitrogen (N) loss in the ocean occurs in oxygen minimum zones (OMZs). This pelagic N-removal takes place within only ,0.1% of the ocean volume, hence moderate variations in the extent of OMZs due to global warming may have a large impact on the global N-cycle. We examined the effect of oxygen (O2) on anammox, NH3 oxidation and NO3 2 reduction in 15N-labeling experiments with varying O2 concentrations (0–25 mmol L21) in the Namibian and Peruvian OMZs. Our results show that O2 is a major controlling factor for anammox activity in OMZ waters. Based on our O2 assays we estimate the upper limit for anammox to be ,20 mmol L21. In contrast, NH3 oxidation to NO2 2 and NO3 2 reduction to NO2 2 as the main NH4 + and NO2 2 sources for anammox were only moderately affected by changing O2 concentrations. Intriguingly, aerobic NH3 oxidation was active at non-detectable concentrations of O2, while anaerobic NO3 2 reduction was fully active up to at least 25 mmol L21 O2. Hence, aerobic and anaerobic N-cycle pathways in OMZs can co-occur over a larger range of O2 concentrations than previously assumed. The zone where N-loss can occur is primarily controlled by the O2-sensitivity of anammox itself, and not by any effects of O2 on the tightly coupled pathways of aerobic NH3 oxidation and NO3 2 reduction. With anammox bacteria in the marine environment being active at O2 levels ,20 times higher than those known to inhibit their cultured counterparts, the oceanic volume potentially acting as a N-sink increases tenfold. The predicted expansion of OMZs may enlarge this volume even further. Our study provides the first robust estimates of O2 sensitivities for processes directly and indirectly connected with N-loss. These are essential to assess the effects of ocean de-oxygenation on oceanic N-cycling.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalP L o S One
    Volume6
    Issue number12
    Pages (from-to)e29299
    ISSN1932-6203
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2011

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