Denitrification and anammox: understanding nitrogen loss from Yangtze Estuary to the East China Sea

350 210 Stroud Water Research Center

Wang, J.,  J. Kan, G. Qian, J. Chen, Z. Xia, X. Zhang, H. Liu, and J. Sun. 2019. Environmental Pollution 252(B):1659-1670.


The Yangtze River, which is the largest in Euro-Asian, receives tremendous anthropogenic nitrogen input and is typically characterized by severe eutrophication and hypoxia. Two major processes, denitrification and anaerobic ammonium oxidation (anammox), play vital roles for removing nitrogen global nitrogen cycling. In the current study, sediment samples were collected from both latitudinal and longitudinal transects along the coastal Yangtze River and the East China Sea (ECS). We investigated community composition and distributions of nosZ gene-encoded denitrifiers by high throughput sequencing, and also quantified the relative abundances of both denitrifying and anammox bacteria by q-PCR analysis. Denitrifying communities showed distinct spatial distribution patterns that were impacted by physical (water current and river runoffs) and chemical (nutrient availability and organic content) processes. Both denitrifying and anammox bacteria contributed to the nitrogen removal in Yangtze Estuary and the adjacent ECS, and these two processes shifted from coastal to open ocean with reverse trends: the abundance of nosZ gene decreased from coastal to open ocean while anammox exhibited an increasing trend based on quantifications of hzsB and 16S rRNA genes. Further correspondence correlation analysis revealed that salinity and nutrients were the main factors in structuring composition and distribution of denitrifying and anammox bacteria. This study improved our understanding of dynamic processes in nitrogen removal from estuarine to open ocean. We hypothesize that denitrification is the major nitrogen removal pathway in estuaries, but in open oceans, low nutrient and organic matter concentrations restrict denitrification, thus increasing the importance of anammox as a nitrogen removal process.