Nitrous Oxide Production and Fluxes from Coastal Sediments under Varying Environmental Conditions

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Wiebke Ziebis1, Scott D Wankel2, Dirk de Beer3, Jane Dentinger1, Carolyn Buchwald4 and Chawalit Charoenpong5, (1)University of Southern California, Biological Sciences, Los Angeles, CA, United States, (2)WHOI, Woods Hole, MA, United States, (3)Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Bremen, Germany, (4)Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry, Woods Hole, MA, United States, (5)Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Science, Cambridge, MA, United States
Although coastal zones represent important contributors to the increasing levels of atmospheric nitrous oxide (N2O), it is still unclear which role benthic processes play and whether marine sediments represent sinks or sources for N2O, since interactions among closely associated microbial groups lead to a high degree of variability. In addition, coastal areas are extremely dynamic regions, often exposed to increased nutrient loading and conditions of depleted oxygen. We investigated benthic N2O fluxes and how environmental conditions affect N2O production in different sediments at 2 different geographical locations (German Wadden Sea, a California coastal lagoon). At each location, a total of 32 sediment cores were taken in areas that differed in sediment type, organic content and pore-water nutrient concentrations, as well as in bioturbation activity. Parallel cores were incubated under in-situ conditions, low oxygen and increased nitrate levels for 10 days. Zones of N2O production and consumption were identified in intact cores by N2O microprofiles at the beginning and end of the experiments. In a collaborative effort to determine the dominant sources of N2O, samples were taken throughout the course of the experiments for the determination of the isotopic composition of N2O (as well as nitrate, nitrite and ammonium). Our results indicate that both, nitrate addition and low oxygen conditions in the overlying water, caused an increase of subsurface N2O production in most sediments, with a high variability between different sediment types. N2O production in the sediments was accompanied by N2O consumption, reducing the fluxes to the water column. In general, organic rich sediments showed the strongest response to environmental changes with increased production and efflux of N2O into the overlying water. Bioturbation activity added to the complexity of N2O dynamics by an increase in nitrification-denitrification processes, as well as enhanced pore-water transport. The results will be used in a metabolic modeling approach that will allow numerical simulation and prediction of sedimentary N2O dynamics.