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Denitrification in sediment determined from nitrogen isotope pairing

Lars Peter Nielsen
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1574-6968.1992.tb04828.x 357-362 First published online: 1 April 1992


A new method for accurate and easy measurement of denitrification in sediments is presented. The water overlying intact sediment cores was enriched with 15NO3 which mixed with the 14NO3 of the natural sources of NO3. The formation by denitrification of single-labeled (14N15N) and double-labeled (15N15N) dinitrogen pairs was measured by mass spectrometry after a few hours incubation. Total denitrification including the formation of unlabeled (14N14N) dinitrogen could be calculated assuming random isotope pairing by denitrification of the uniformly mixed NO3 species. In contrast to previous approaches, by this method it is possible to measure denitrification of both NO3 diffusing from the overlying water and NO3 from nitrification within the sediment.

Key words
  • Denitrification
  • Nitrification
  • Sediment
  • Isotopes
  • 15N
  • 15NO3

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