Denitrification in wetlands: A review towards a quantification at global scale

Sci Total Environ. 2021 Feb 1;754:142398. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.142398. Epub 2020 Sep 22.


Research to understand the nitrogen cycle has been thriving. The production of reactive nitrogen by humans exceeds the removal capacity through denitrification of any natural ecosystem. The surplus of reactive nitrogen is also a significant pollutant that can shift biological diversity and distribution, promotes eutrophication in aquatic ecosystems, and affects human health. Denitrification is the microbial respiration in anoxic conditions and is the main process that removes definitively nitrates from the ecosystem by returning of reactive nitrogen (Nr) to the atmosphere as N2 and N2O emissions. This process occurs in the oceans, aquatic ecosystems and temporary flooded terrestrial ecosystems. Wetlands ecosystems are rich in organic matter and they have regular anoxic soil conditions ideal for denitrification to occur. In the current paper, we provide a meta-analysis that aims at exploring how research around global nitrogen, denitrification and wetlands had evolved in the last fifty years. Back in the time, wetland ecosystems were seen as non-exploitable elements of the landscape, and now they are being integrated as providers of ecosystem services. A significant improvement of molecular biology techniques and genetic extraction have made the denitrification process fully understood allowing constructed wetlands to be more efficient and popular. Yet, large uncertainties remain concerning the dynamic quantification of the global denitrification capacity of natural wetland ecosystems. The contribution of the current investigation is to provide a way forward for reducing these uncertainties by the integration of satellite-based Earth Observation (EO) technology with parsimonious physical based models.

Keywords: Denitrification; Earth observations; Global nitrogen; Nitrogen cycle; Wetlands.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Denitrification
  • Ecosystem*
  • Nitrogen
  • Nitrogen Cycle
  • Wetlands*


  • Nitrogen