Effects of CO2 enrichment on benthic primary production and inorganic nitrogen fluxes in two coastal sediments

Ocean acidification may alter the cycling of nitrogen in coastal sediment and so the sediment–seawater nitrogen flux, an important driver of pelagic productivity. To investigate how this perturbation affects the fluxes of NOX (nitrite/nitrate), NH4+ and O2, we incubated estuarine sand and subtidal silt in recirculating seawater with a CO2-adjusted pH of 8.1 and 7.9. During a 41-day incubation, the seawater kept at pH 8.1 lost 97% of its NOX content but the seawater kept at pH 7.9 lost only 18%. Excess CO2 increased benthic photosynthesis. In the silt, this was accompanied by a reversal of the initial NOX efflux into influx. The estuarine sand sustained its initial NOX influx but, by the end of the incubation, released more NH4+ at pH 7.9 than at pH 8.1. We hypothesise that these effects share a common cause; excess CO2 increased the growth of benthic microalgae and so nutrient competition with ammonia oxidising bacteria (AOB). In the silt, diatoms likely outcompeted AOB for NH4+ and photosynthesis increased the dark/light fluctuations in the pore water oxygenation inhibiting nitrification and coupled nitrification/denitrification. If this is correct, then excess CO2 may lead to retention of inorganic nitrogen adding to the pressures of increasing coastal eutrophication.

Vopel K., Del-Río C. & Pilditch C. A., 2018. Effects of CO2 enrichment on benthic primary production and inorganic nitrogen fluxes in two coastal sediments. Scientific Reports 8: 1035. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-19051-w. Article.

 


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