Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

The effect of sulfate and nitrate on methane formation in a freshwater sediment


A freshwater sediment from a ditch of a peat grassland near Zegveld (Province of Utrecht, The Netherlands) was investigated for its potential methanogenic and syntrophic activity and the influence of sulfate and nitrate on these potential activities. Methanogenesis started after a 10 days lagphase. After 35–40 days aceticlastic methanogens were sufficiently enriched to cause a net decrease of acetate. In the presence of sulfate methane formation was only slightly affected. The addition of nitrate led to an outcompetion of aceticlastic methanogens by nitrate reducers. When inorganic electron acceptors were absent, substrates like propionate and butyrate were converted by syntrophic methanogenic consortia. Addition of inorganic electron acceptors resulted in an outcompetition of the syntrophic propionate and butyrate degrading consortia by the sulfate and nitrate reducers.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Dasselaar van A & Oenema O (1994) Effects of grassland management on the emission of methane from grassland on peat soils. Proc. Int. Conf. Climate Change Research: Evaluation and Policy Implications, Maastricht

  2. Dolfing J (1988) Acetogenesis. In: Zehnder AJB (Ed) Biology of anaerobic microorganisms (pp 417–468). John Wiley & Sons, New York

  3. Hordijk CA, Kamminga H & Cappenberg TE (1994) Kinetic studies of acetate in freshwater sediments: Use of stable isotopic tracers. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 58: 683–694

  4. Huser BA, Wuhrmann K & Zehnder AJB (1982)Methanothrix soehnenii gen. nov. sp. nov., a new acetotrophic non-hydrogen-oxidizing methane bacterium. Archives of Microbiol. 13: 1–9

  5. Khallil MAK & Rasmussen RA (1983) Sources and sinks and seasonal cycles of atmospheric methane. J. Geophys. Res. 88: 5131–5144

  6. King D & Nedwell DB (1985) The influence of nitrate concentration upon the end-products of nitrate dissimilation by bacteria in anaerobic salt marsh sediment. FEMS Microbiology Ecology 31: 23–28

  7. Koike I & Hattori A (1978) Denitrification and ammonia formation in anaerobic coastal sediments. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 35: 278–282

  8. Lovley DR, Dwyer DF & Klug MJ (1982) Kinetic analysis of competition between sulfate reducers and methanogens for hydrogen in sediments. Appl. and Environ. Microbiol. 43: 1373–1379

  9. Lovley DR & Klug MJ (1983) Sulfate reducers can outcompete methanogens at freshwater sulfate concentrations. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 45: 187–192

  10. McInerney MJ (1988) Anaerobic hydrolysis and fermentation of fats and proteins. In: Zehnder AJB (Ed) Biology of anaerobic microorganisms (pp 373–415). John Wiley & Sons, New York

  11. Oremland RS, Umberger C, Culbertson CW & Smith RL (1984) Denitrification in San Francisco Bay intertidal sediments. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 47: 1106–1112

  12. Oude Elferink SJWH, Visser A, Hulshoff Pol LW & Stams AJM (1994) Sulfate reduction in methanogenic bioreactors. FEMS Microbiology Reviews 15: 119–136

  13. Rajagopal BS, Belay N & Daniels L (1988) Isolation and characterization of methanogenic bacteria from rice paddies. FEMS Microbiology Ecology 53: 153–158

  14. Robinson J & Tiedje JM (1984) Competition between sulfate reducing and methanogenic bacteria for H2 under resting and growing conditions. Archives of Microbiology 137: 26–32

  15. Schönheit P, Kristjansson JK & Thauer RK (1982) Kinetic mechanism for the ability of sulfate reducers to out-compete methanogens for acetate. Archives of Microbiology 132: 285–288

  16. Seiler W (1984) Contribution of biological processes to the global budget of CH4 in the atmosphere. In: Klug MJ & Reddy CA (Eds) Current perspectives in microbial ecology (pp 468–477). American Society of Microbiology, Washington

  17. Smith RL & Klug JK (1981) Electron donors utilized by sulfate reducing bacteria in eutrophic lake sediments. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 42: 116–121

  18. Sørensen J (1978) Capacity for denitrification and reduction of nitrate to ammonia in a marine coastal sediment. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 35: 301–305

  19. Stams AJM (1994) Metabolic interactions between anaerobic bacteria in methanogenic environments. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek 66: 271–294

  20. Thebrath B, Rothfuss F, Whiticar MJ & Conrad R (1993) Methane production in littoral sediment of Lake Constance. FEMS Microbiology Ecology 102: 279–289

  21. Vogels GD (1979) The global cycle of methane. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek 45: 347–352

  22. Wolin EA, Wolin MJ & Wolfe RS (1963) Formation of methane by bacterial extracts. J. Biol. Chem. 238: 2882–2886

  23. Widdel F & Hansen TA (1992) The dissimilatory sulfate- and sulfur-reducing bacteria. In: Balows A, Trüper HG, Dworkin M, Harder W & Schleifer KH (Eds) The Prokaryotes, 2nd edn. (pp 583–624). Springer-Verlag, New York, NY

  24. Winfrey MR & Zeikus JG (1977) Effect of sulfate on carbon and electron flow during microbial methanogenesis in freshwater sediments. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 33: 275–281

  25. Zehnder AJB, Huser BA, Brock TD & Wuhrmann K (1980) Characterization of an acetate-decarboxylating, non-hydrogen-oxidizing methane bacterium. Annu. Rev. Microbiol. 34: 423–464

Download references

Author information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Scholten, J.C.M., Stams, A.J.M. The effect of sulfate and nitrate on methane formation in a freshwater sediment. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek 68, 309–315 (1995).

Download citation

Key words

  • Acetate
  • methanogenesis
  • freshwater sediments
  • nitrate reduction
  • sulfate reduction
  • volatile fatty acids