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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Wetlands and Aquatic Processes

Coupled Cycles of Dissolved Oxygen and Nitrous Oxide in Rivers along a Trophic Gradient in Southern Ontario, Canada


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 40 No. 1, p. 256-270
    Received: Jan 11, 2010

    * Corresponding author(s): msrosamo@uwaterloo.ca
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  1. Madeline S. Rosamond *a,
  2. Simon J. Thussa,
  3. Sherry L. Schiffa and
  4. Richard J. Elgooda
  1.  aDep. of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Univ. of Waterloo, 200 University Ave. W, Waterloo, ON Canada, N2L 3G1; S.J. Thuss, current address: Golder Associates Ltd., 309 Exeter Road, Unit 1, London, ON Canada N6L 1C1. Assigned to Associate Editor Pierre-Andre Jacinthe.


Diel (24-h) cycling of dissolved O2 (DO) in rivers is well documented, but evidence for coupled diel changes in DO and nitrogen cycling has only been demonstrated in hypereutrophic systems where DO approaches zero at night. Here, we show diel changes in N2O and DO concentration at several sites across a trophic gradient. Nitrous oxide concentration increased at night at all but one site in spring and summer, even when gas exchange was rapid and minimum water column DO was well above hypoxic conditions. Diel N2O curves were not mirror images of DO curves and were not symmetrical about the mean. Although inter- and intrasite variation was high, N2O peaked around the time of lowest DO at most of the sites. These results suggest that N2O must be measured several times per diel period to characterize curve shape and timing. Nitrous oxide concentration was not significantly correlated with NO3 concentration, contrary to studies in agricultural streams and to the current United Nations Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change protocols for N2O emission estimation. The strong negative correlation between N2O concentration and daily minimum DO concentration suggested that N2O production was limited by DO. This is consistent with N2O produced by nitrite reduction. The ubiquity of diel N2O cycling suggests that most DO and N2O sampling strategies used in rivers are insufficient to capture natural variability. Ecosystem-level effects of microbial processes, such as denitrification, are sensitive to small changes in redox conditions in the water column even in low-nutrient oxic rivers, suggesting diel cycling of redox-sensitive compounds may exist in many aquatic systems.

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