Nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas and ozone destroying agent, is produced and consumed by microbial processes in seawater. While production in surface waters is attributed mostly to nitrification, which is considered an obligately aerobic process, there are no known consumption processes that occur under oxygenated conditions. Nevertheless, we are able to measure nitrous oxide consumption and to detect the presence and expression of genes that encode the nitrous oxide reduction reaction in surface waters. Experimental results from several open ocean and coastal environments will be presented, to document and characterize this consumption term and the microbes responsible for it. The widespread occurrence of surface ocean N2O consumption challenges our understanding of conventional microbial physiologies and the regulation of net N2O exchange between ocean and atmosphere.
Speaker: Bess Ward, Stanford University
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