Nitrite Oxidation Across the Full Oxygen Spectrum in the Ocean

Xin Sun, Claudia Frey, Bess B. Ward

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Fixed nitrogen limits primary productivity in most areas of the surface ocean. Nitrite oxidation is the main source of nitrate, the most abundant form of inorganic fixed nitrogen. Even though known as an aerobic process, nitrite oxidation is not always stimulated by increased oxygen concentration, and nitrite oxidation occurs in layers of oxygen minimum zones (OMZs) where oxygen is not detectable. Nitrite-oxidizing bacteria, known since their original isolation as aerobes, were also detected in these layers. Whether and how nitrite oxidation is occurring in the anoxic seawater is debated. Here, we reassess recent advances in marine nitrite oxidation in OMZ regions using previous work and new data sets we collected in two Pacific OMZs. We analyze the complex relationship between nitrite oxidation and oxygen. We discuss potential mechanisms explaining nitrite oxidation in different layers of OMZs based on recent findings and propose future directions to resolve the controversial question of apparently anaerobic nitrite oxidation in anoxic layers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2022GB007548
JournalGlobal Biogeochemical Cycles
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Environmental Science
  • Atmospheric Science


  • marine oxygen minimum zones
  • nitrite oxidation
  • nitrite-oxidizing bacteria


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