The impact of suspended oyster farming on nitrogen cycling and nitrous oxide production in a sub-tropical Australian estuary
Erler, DV, Welsh, DT, Bennet, WW, Meziane, T, Hubas, C Nizzoli, D & Ferguson, AJP 2017, 'The impact of suspended oyster farming on nitrogen cycling and nitrous oxide production in a sub-tropical Australian estuary', Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, vol. 192, pp. 117-127.
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In this study we quantified nitrate (NO3−) reduction (denitrification, anammox and DNRA) and N2O production in sediments and epibiont communities associated with Sydney Rock Oyster (Saccostrea glomerata) farming. In sediments beneath an active suspended oyster farm, DNRA accounted for 98% of NO3− reduction with rates of up to 169 ± 45 μmol N m−2 h−1. Much of this DNRA was fuelled by NO3− derived from nitrification. Reference sediments had significantly lower DNRA rates of 83.8 ± 28.2 μmol N m−2 h−1, however this constituted 96% of the sites total NO3−reduction. Fatty acid analysis showed that sediment organic matter was more labile in the oyster impacted sediments, facilitating subtle shifts in sediment oxygen demand which increased the Fe2+ availability with respect to the reference sediments. The difference in DNRA rate between the sites was attributed to autotrophic oxidation of soluble Fe2+ in sediments underlying the oyster cultures. DNRA was absent in the oyster shell epibiont communities and rates of anammox and denitrification were lower than in the sediments. Production of NH4+ from the oysters and their associated epibionts was larger than DNRA and reached a rate of 206.2 μmol N m−2 h−1. Nitrous oxide production rates were generally low compared to other aquaculture systems and the net flux of N2O for the combined oyster cultivation system (i.e. sediments plus epibionts) was negative, i.e. there was N2O consumption in the sediments beneath the oysters. Overall, subtropical suspended oyster farming systems favour inorganic N retention over N loss.