Enhancement and inhibition of denitrification by fluid-flow and dissolved oxygen flux to stream sediments

Ben L. O'Connor, Miki Hondzo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Microscale measurements of nitrate (NO3-) and dissolved oxygen (DO) concentrations in sediments were made in a laboratory channel under turbulent fluid-flow conditions to examine the effects of DO flux on denitrification rates. DO concentrations and flux within sediments increased with increasing velocity in the surface water. Under low fluid-flow conditions (shear stress velocity, u* < 0.23 cm s-1), increasing velocity increased NO3- loss from the bulk flow. For high fluid-flow conditions (u* > 0.39 cm s-1), increasing velocity inhibited NO3- loss. Sediment cores were collected and sliced to measure the depth distribution of denitrifying biomass in sediments. Quantities of nirK and nirS genes were higher within the surface layer and decreased with depth in the sediments. Microscale concentration profiles of DO and NO3- revealed that denitrification occurs within a thin region just below the oxic-anoxic interface in sediments. The interplay of mass transfer and DO flux generated threshold conditions for NO3- loss by denitrification. These results suggest that for a given sediment and environmental conditions (chemical, physical, microbiological), there exists an optimal range in velocities for enhancing denitrification in aquatic systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-125
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2008


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