Ammonia oxidation rates and nitrification in the Arabian Sea

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Abstract

[1] Nitrification rates, as well as the relationships between rates and ammonia oxidizer abundance (both archaeal and bacterial), were investigated in the Arabian Sea. Ammonia oxidation rates were measured directly using 15N-NH4+stable isotope additions in gas-impermeable, trace metal clean trilaminate bags (500 mL) at in situ temperature. Tracer incubations were performed at three stations at depths above, below, and within the oxycline of the open-ocean oxygen minimum zone (OMZ). Ammonia oxidation rates were similar to previous open-ocean measurements, ranging from undetectable to 21.6 ± 0.1 nmol L−1 d−1. The highest rates at each station occurred at the primary nitrite maximum (above the OMZ), and rates were very low at depths greater than 900 m. The abundances of both ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA) and ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) were estimated using theamoA gene by quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR). Both AOA and AOB amoA were detected above, within, and below the OMZ, although the AOA were always more abundant than the AOB, by a factor of 35–216. Nitrification rates were not directly correlated to AOA or AOB amoA abundance. These rates offer new insight into the role of nitrification in the mesopelagic zone. The abundance of AOA amoA genes at 1000 m suggests that ∼50% of the microbial biomass could be autotrophic. Additionally, the integrated nitrification rate at depth implies that nitrification could consume most of the ammonium produced by the flux of organic carbon in the mesopelagic zone.

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