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Nitrate Reduction in a Groundwater Microcosm Determined by 15N Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry

By Göran Bengtsson and Heléne Annadotter


Aerobic and anaerobic groundwater continuous-flow microcosms were designed to study nitrate reduction by the indigenous bacteria in intact saturated soil cores from a sandy aquifer with a concentration of 3.8 mg of NO3−-N liter−1. Traces of 15NO3− were added to filter-sterilized groundwater by using a Darcy flux of 4 cm day−1. Both assimilatory and dissimilatory reduction rates were estimated from analyses of 15N2, 15N2O, 15NH4+, and 15N-labeled protein amino acids by capillary gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. N2 and N2O were separated on a megabore fused-silica column and quantified by electron impact-selected ion monitoring. NO3− and NH4+ were analyzed as pentafluorobenzoyl amides by multiple-ion monitoring and protein amino acids as their N-heptafluorobutyryl isobutyl ester derivatives by negative ion-chemical ionization. The numbers of bacteria and their [methyl-3H]thymidine incorporation rates were simultaneously measured. Nitrate was completely reduced in the microcosms at a rate of about 250 ng g−1 day−1. Of this nitrate, 80 to 90% was converted by aerobic denitrification to N2, whereas only 35% was denitrified in the anaerobic microcosm, where more than 50% of NO3− was reduced to NH4+. Assimilatory reduction was recorded only in the aerobic microcosm, where N appeared in alanine in the cells. The nitrate reduction rates estimated for the aquifer material were low in comparison with rates in eutrophic lakes and coastal sediments but sufficiently high to remove nitrate from an uncontaminated aquifer of the kind examined in less than 1 month

Topics: General Microbial Ecology
Year: 1989
OAI identifier: oai:pubmedcentral.nih.gov:203182
Provided by: PubMed Central
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