New research reveals that aquatic acidification affects the denitrification process in estuarine waters

The denitrification process is a key pathway for removing excess nitrogen in ecosystems such as estuaries and coastal waters. Recently, the latest research by Zheng Yanling, Hou Lijun and others from East China Normal University has shown that acidification in estuaries and coastal waters is likely to affect the nitrogen removal process. The results were published online on April 24 in Environmental Science and Technology.

The research team found that the denitrification rate of estuarine and coastal waters was significantly reduced under acidification conditions, and the rate of denitrification in estuarine and coastal sediments was reduced by 41–53% when the pH of the overlying water was reduced by about 0.3%. Under the same acidification conditions, the nitrogen removal rate during the anaerobic ammonia oxidation process will be improved to some extent. Overall, aquatic acidification significantly inhibited the total nitrogen loss rate, resulting in a reduction in the efficiency of denitrification in estuaries and coastal waters.

Further studies have shown that nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions from estuarine and coastal sediments are also greatly stimulated by aquatic acidification. Molecular analysis further showed that aquatic acidification also altered functional microbial communities in estuarine and coastal sediments: the abundance of denitrifying bacteria was significantly reduced, while the abundance of anaerobic ammonia oxidizing bacteria remained relatively stable.

Aquatic acidification affects the process of water denitrification. Image from the paper

The team said the study reveals the effects of aquatic acidification on the denitrification process and its underlying mechanisms, suggesting that if acidification in estuaries and coastal waters increases, it may reduce the nitrogenation function of these ecosystems, exacerbate eutrophication, and thus accelerate global climate change. (Source: China Science Daily Zheng Jinwu)

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