Denitrification rates in lake sediments of mountains affected by high atmospheric nitrogen deposition

Palacin Lizarbe, CarlosCamarero, Lluís Hallin, SaraJones, Christopher M.Catalán, Jordi.  Scientific Reports 10 : 3003 (2020)  DIGITAL CSIC

During the last decades, atmospheric nitrogen loading in mountain ranges of the Northern Hemisphere has increased substantially, resulting in high nitrate concentrations in many lakes. Yet, how increased nitrogen has affected denitrification, a key process for nitrogen removal, is poorly understood. We measured actual and potential (nitrate and carbon amended) denitrification rates in sediments of several lake types and habitats in the Pyrenees during the ice-free season. Actual denitrification rates ranged from 0 to 9 μmol N2O m−2 h−1 (mean, 1.5 ± 1.6 SD), whereas potential rates were about 10-times higher. The highest actual rates occurred in warmer sediments with more nitrate available in the overlying water. Consequently, littoral habitats showed, on average, 3-fold higher rates than the deep zone. The highest denitrification potentials were found in more productive lakes located at relatively low altitude and small catchments, with warmer sediments, high relative abundance of denitrification nitrite reductase genes, and sulphate-rich waters. We conclude that increased nitrogen deposition has resulted in elevated denitrification rates, but not sufficiently to compensate for the atmospheric nitrogen loading in most of the highly oligotrophic lakes. However, there is potential for high rates, especially in the more productive lakes and landscape features largely govern this.