Microbial N2O consumption in and above marine N2O production hotspots

Xin Sun, Amal Jayakumar, John C. Tracey, Elizabeth Wallace, Colette L. Kelly, Karen L. Casciotti, Bess B. Ward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


The ocean is a net source of N2O, a potent greenhouse gas and ozone-depleting agent. However, the removal of N2O via microbial N2O consumption is poorly constrained and rate measurements have been restricted to anoxic waters. Here we expand N2O consumption measurements from anoxic zones to the sharp oxygen gradient above them, and experimentally determine kinetic parameters in both oxic and anoxic seawater for the first time. We find that the substrate affinity, O2 tolerance, and community composition of N2O-consuming microbes in oxic waters differ from those in the underlying anoxic layers. Kinetic parameters determined here are used to model in situ N2O production and consumption rates. Estimated in situ rates differ from measured rates, confirming the necessity to consider kinetics when predicting N2O cycling. Microbes from the oxic layer consume N2O under anoxic conditions at a much faster rate than microbes from anoxic zones. These experimental results are in keeping with model results which indicate that N2O consumption likely takes place above the oxygen deficient zone (ODZ). Thus, the dynamic layer with steep O2 and N2O gradients right above the ODZ is a previously ignored potential gatekeeper of N2O and should be accounted for in the marine N2O budget.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1434-1444
Number of pages11
JournalISME Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Microbiology


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