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Microb Ecol. 2008 Feb;55(2):311-20. Epub 2007 Jul 7.

Anaerobic ammonium oxidation (anammox) in Chesapeake Bay sediments.

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Department of Geosciences, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, USA.


Anaerobic ammonium oxidation (anammox) has recently been recognized as a pathway for the removal of fixed N from aquatic ecosystems. However, the quantitative significance of anammox in estuarine sediments is variable, and measurements have been limited to a few estuaries. We measured anammox and conventional denitrification activities in sediments along salinity gradients in the Chesapeake Bay and two of its sub-estuaries, the Choptank River and Patuxent River. Homogenized sediments were incubated with (14/15)N amendments of NH4+, NO3-, and NO2- to determine relative activities of anammox and denitrification. The percent of N2 production due to anammox (ra%) ranged from 0 to 22% in the Chesapeake system, with the highest ra% in the freshwater portion of the main stem of upper Chesapeake Bay, where water column NO3- concentrations are consistently high. Intermediate levels of relative anammox (10%) were detected at locations corresponding to tidal freshwater and mesohaline locations in the Choptank River, whereas anammox was not detected in the tidal freshwater location in the Patuxent River. Anammox activity was also not detected in the seaward end of Chesapeake Bay, where water column No3- concentrations are consistently low. The ra% did not correlate with NH4+ accumulation rate in anoxic sediment incubations, but ra% was related to water column NO3- concentrations and salinity. Anammox bacterial communities were also examined by amplifying DNA extracted from the upper Chesapeake Bay sediment with polymerase chain reaction (PCR) primers that are specific for 16S rRNA genes of anammox organisms. A total of 35 anammox-like sequences were detected, and phylogenetic analysis grouped the sequences in two distinct clusters belonging to the Candidatus "Scalindua" genus.

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