Document Type

Article

Subject Area(s)

Biology

Abstract

Rates of benthic denitrification, oxygen consumption and nutrient regeneration were measured during winter, spring and summer in Galveston Bay (Texas, USA) sediments. Denitrification ranged from 0 to 47 µmol N2 m-2 h-1 with maximal rates generally occurring in the summer and the upper estuary. Oxygen consumption rates ranged from 38 µmol O2 m-2 h-1 in the winter to 353 µmol O2 m-2 h-1 in the summer and were correlated with denitrification rates. Variations in bay water temperature accounted for 52 % of the variability associated with denitrification rates whereas only 28% of the variability could be attributed to organic carbon content and 15% to salinity, indicating a predominance of temporal over spatial factors in controlling estuarine rates of denitrification. In the spring and summer, denitrification was responsible for the majority (73 and 80%, respectively) of the total benthic inorganic nitrogen efflux while in the winter, nitrogen fluxes were dominated (80 %) by ammonium. At salinities less than 6%0, cation exchange interactions may have played an important role in retaining ammonium in the sediment, producing the higher rates of denitrification found in the upper estuary. Dissolved inorganic carbon flux was used as a measure of total organic carbon mineralization. The average molar C:N of the remineralized substrate (5.2) was lower than the average C:N of the sediments (12.6) indicating preferential remineralization of nitrogen relative to carbon. Molar C:O ratios suggested that anaerobic carbon mineralization and the storage of its reduced end-products is more prevalent in the lower estuary and in the winter. Denitrifiers were responsible for 37 and 13 % of the total benthic carbon mineralization in the upper and lower estuary, respectively. Denitrification appears to be a greater contributor to total carbon mineralization than previously considered. Nearly one-third of the total sediment oxygen consumption was attributed to nitrification. Galveston Bay sediment denitrification and oxygen consumption rates and nutrient fluxes were lower but comparable to those of other Gulf of Mexico estuaries. Differences among the estuaries examined are attributed mainly to sediment organic matter content.

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