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Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 42, Issue 5, pp 1265–1280 | Cite as

Quantifying Effluent Dissolved Organic Nitrogen (EDON) Uptake by Microbial Communities Along a Salinity Gradient in the York River

  • Xiaolong Yao
  • Rachel E. Sipler
  • Brianna C. Stanley
  • Quinn N. Roberts
  • Marta P. Sanderson
  • Charles B. Bott
  • Deborah A. BronkEmail author
Article

Abstract

Effluent discharged from water reclamation facilities (WRFs) contains dissolved organic nitrogen, termed effluent dissolved organic nitrogen (EDON), that subsequently enters coastal waterways. It is still unclear at what rate EDON can be taken up by microbial communities relative to other nitrogen (N) substrates. Bench-scale sequencing batch reactors (SBRs), used to mimic WRFs, were supplied with 15N-labeled ammonium (15NH4+) to produce 15N-labeled EDON (EDO15N) that was subsequently used to measure uptake rates along a salinity gradient of the York River, Virginia, USA, in the spring and summer. Although NH4+ dominated influent N pools, only a small fraction (4.1%) of EDON was produced from NH4+ microbial assimilation in biological treatment processes. When added as a short-term (4-h) tracer, the EDO15N was taken up by estuarine microbes at rates 0.01–0.434 μmol N L−1 h−1, which are similar to rates of NH4+ and nitrate uptake. When added to 48-h bioassays, EDON stimulated phytoplankton growth more at the lower salinity (0–8‰) sites (8.5–13.8 μg Chl a L−1) than at the higher salinity (20‰) site (up to 0.4 μmol Chl a L−1). The microbes in the 0.7–5 μm size fraction had significantly higher EDO15N uptake rates than the larger size fraction (e.g., > 5 μm, p < 0.05). Taken together with urea and amino acids, DON plays a more important role in N nutrition for microbes during the summer months. This study provides the first EDO15N uptake rates using EDO15N produced from 15NH4+ in SBRs, and the results provide conclusive evidence that organic N in effluent is biologically available to estuarine microbes.

Keywords

Effluent Dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) Uptake Microbial communities York River 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We are grateful to anonymous reviewers for their insightful suggestions. This paper is Contribution No. 3824 of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William & Mary.

Funding Information

This study was supported by The Water Environment Research Foundation grant no. U1R11 to DAB and RES. XY was supported by the China Scholarship Council (CSC) (No. 201704910658).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Supplementary material

12237_2019_563_MOESM1_ESM.docx (2.7 mb)
ESM 1 Supporting Information Tables showing specific and absolute uptake rates of N substrates measured on the 0.3–0.7, 0.7–5, and > 5 μm size fractions at each site during the summer and difference values between 4 and 48 h of the spring and summer 48-h bioassays for the concentrations of nutrients, DOC, Chl a, and phaeopigments. Figures showing NH4+ regeneration rates at each site during the tracer studies, specific and absolute uptake rates of the 0.3–0.7, 0.7–5, and > 5 μm size fractions during the summer, and changes in the concentrations of nutrients, DOC, Chl a, and phaeopigments under each treatment during the 48-h bioassays (DOCX 2773 kb)

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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Virginia Institute of Marine ScienceCollege of William & MaryGloucester PointUSA
  2. 2.State Key Laboratory of Lake Science and Environment, Nanjing Institute of Geography and LimnologyChinese Academy of SciencesNanjingChina
  3. 3.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  4. 4.Department of Ocean SciencesMemorial University of NewfoundlandSt. John’sCanada
  5. 5.Hampton Roads Sanitation DistrictVirginia BeachUSA
  6. 6.Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean SciencesBoothbayUSA

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