Nitrogen and oxygen availabilities control water column nitrous oxide production during seasonal anoxia in the Chesapeake Bay

Qixing Ji, Claudia Frey, Xin Sun, Melanie Jackson, Yea Shine Lee, Amal Jayakumar, Jeffrey C. Cornwell, Bess B. Ward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a greenhouse gas and an ozone depletion agent. Estuaries that are subject to seasonal anoxia are generally regarded as N2O sources. However, insufficient understanding of the environmental controls on N2O production results in large uncertainty about the estuarine contribution to the global N2O budget. Incubation experiments with nitrogen stable isotope tracer were used to investigate the geochemical factors controlling N2O production from denitrification in the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in North America. The highest potential rates of water column N2O production via denitrification (7.5±1.2 nmol-N L-1 h-1) were detected during summer anoxia, during which oxidized nitrogen species (nitrate and nitrite) were absent from the water column. At the top of the anoxic layer, N2O production from denitrification was stimulated by addition of nitrate and nitrite. The relative contribution of nitrate and nitrite to N2O production was positively correlated with the ratio of nitrate to nitrite concentrations. Increased oxygen availability, up to 7 μmol L-1 oxygen, inhibited both N2O production and the reduction of nitrate to nitrite. In spring, high oxygen and low abundance of denitrifying microbes resulted in undetectable N2O production from denitrification. Thus, decreasing the nitrogen input into the Chesapeake Bay has two potential impacts on the N2O production: a lower availability of nitrogen substrates may mitigate short-term N2O emissions during summer anoxia; and, in the long-run (timescale of years), eutrophication will be alleviated and subsequent reoxygenation of the bay will further inhibit N2O production.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6127-6138
Number of pages12
Issue number20
StatePublished - Oct 18 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Earth-Surface Processes


Dive into the research topics of 'Nitrogen and oxygen availabilities control water column nitrous oxide production during seasonal anoxia in the Chesapeake Bay'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this