Organic carbon, and not copper, controls denitrification in oxygen minimum zones of the ocean

Bettie Ward, Caroline B. Tuit, Amal Jayakumar, Jeremy J. Rich, James Moffett, S. Wajih A. Naqvi

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101 Scopus citations


Incubation experiments under trace metal clean conditions and ambient oxygen concentrations were used to investigate the response of microbial assemblages in oxygen minimum zones (OMZs) to additions of organic carbon and copper, two factors that might be expected to limit denitrification in the ocean. In the OMZs of the Eastern Tropical North and South Pacific, denitrification appeared to be limited by organic carbon; exponential cell growth and rapid nitrate and nitrite depletion occurred upon the addition of small amounts of carbon, but copper had no effect. In the OMZ of the Arabian Sea, neither carbon nor copper appeared to be limiting. We hypothesize that denitrification is variable in time and space in the OMZs in ways that may be predictable based on links to the episodic supply of organic substrates from overlying productive surface waters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1672-1683
Number of pages12
JournalDeep-Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science


  • Carbon limitation
  • Denitrification
  • Oxygen minimum zone


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