Microbial nitrogen cycling processes in oxygen minimum zones

Ann Rev Mar Sci. 2011;3:317-45. doi: 10.1146/annurev-marine-120709-142814.

Abstract

Oxygen minimum zones (OMZs) harbor unique microbial communities that rely on alternative electron acceptors for respiration. Conditions therein enable an almost complete nitrogen (N) cycle and substantial N-loss. N-loss in OMZs is attributable to anammox and heterotrophic denitrification, whereas nitrate reduction to nitrite along with dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium are major remineralization pathways. Despite virtually anoxic conditions, nitrification also occurs in OMZs, converting remineralized ammonium to N-oxides. The concurrence of all these processes provides a direct channel from organic N to the ultimate N-loss, whereas most individual processes are likely controlled by organic matter. Many microorganisms inhabiting the OMZs are capable of multiple functions in the N- and other elemental cycles. Their versatile metabolic potentials versus actual activities present a challenge to ecophysiological and biogeochemical measurements. These challenges need to be tackled before we can realistically predict how N-cycling in OMZs, and thus oceanic N-balance, will respond to future global perturbations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Nitrates / metabolism
  • Nitrogen Cycle / physiology*
  • Oceans and Seas
  • Oxygen / chemistry*
  • Oxygen / metabolism*

Substances

  • Nitrates
  • Oxygen