Seasonal Patterns of Denitrification and N2O Production in a Southern New England Salt Marsh

Abstract

Denitrification removes reactive nitrogen (N) from ecosystems by transforming nitrate (NO3) to dinitrogen (N2) gas. Incomplete denitrification produces nitrous oxide (N2O), a potent greenhouse gas. In salt marshes, denitrification, N2O production, and N2O yield (the fraction of denitrification that produces N2O) have implications for N load reduction and greenhouse gas emissions. We collected soil cores from three salt marsh zones (low marsh, high marsh, and invasive Phragmites australis) on five sampling dates that spanned the growing season (May through October) to quantify seasonal patterns of potential denitrification, N2O production, and N2O yield. Potential denitrification peaked at the beginning and end of the growing season, with rates several times higher in May and October than in June, but we found no significant differences among salt marsh zones. In contrast, seasonal patterns of potential N2O production depended on marsh zone; N2O production was aseasonal in high marsh and P. australis zones, but in the low marsh, N2O production was lower in July compared to all other months sampled. In this salt marsh, seasonal variation of potential denitrification and N2O production was greater than spatial variation over the marsh zones, highlighting the importance of understanding temporal patterns of salt marsh N cycling.

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Data Availability

The datasets generated during this study are included in this published article (and its supplementary information files) or available at https://github.com/lekoenig/Granville_denitrification.git.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the Long Island Sound Study (EPA, Grant no. R/CMB-42-CTNY funded under award LI96172701) and by the Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation’s (CIRCA) Matching Funds Program to BAL, AMH, and CSE; the University of Connecticut Summer Undergraduate Research Fund to KEG; and the Connecticut Association of Wetland Scientists Michael Lefor PhD grant to KEG. The statements, findings, conclusions, views and recommendations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of any of those organizations. We thank Aidan Barry, Katherine Bell, Alaina Bisson, Olivia Johnson, and Fiona Lui for their assistance with fieldwork and laboratory analyses. We thank two anonymous reviewers for feedback that improved the manuscript. The datasets generated during this study are included in this published article (and its supplementary information files) or available at https://github.com/lekoenig/Granville_denitrification.git.

Funding

This work was supported by the Long Island Sound Study (EPA, Grant no. R/CMB-42-CTNY funded under award LI96172701) and by the Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation’s (CIRCA) Matching Funds Program to BAL, AMH, and CSE; the University of Connecticut Summer Undergraduate Research Fund to KEG; and the Connecticut Association of Wetland Scientists Michael Lefor PhD grant to KEG.

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BAL, CSE, and AMH conceived of the research idea; KEG, SKO, and AMH designed the research; KEG and SKO conducted the research; KEG, LEK, and AMH analyzed the data and drafted the manuscript; all authors discussed the results, provided critical feedback, and edited the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Ashley M. Helton.

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Granville, K.E., Ooi, S.K., Koenig, L.E. et al. Seasonal Patterns of Denitrification and N2O Production in a Southern New England Salt Marsh. Wetlands 41, 7 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13157-021-01393-x

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Keywords

  • Denitrification
  • Nitrous oxide
  • Phragmites australis
  • Salt marsh
  • Seasonality
  • Spartina