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Advancing Methods for Measuring Denitrification in Terrestrial and Aquatic Systems

May 27-30, 2008
At Horn Point Laboratory, University of Maryland, Cambridge, Maryland, USA


Demonstrated Denitrification Methods

This workshop included hands-on, training demonstrations of several advanced techniques for measuring denitrification in aquatic and terrestrial systems:

  1. Membrane inlet mass spectrometry (MIMS) with Todd Kana
  2. Aquatic denitrification using MIMS N2:Ar with Jeff Cornwell and Mike Owens
  3. Isotope pairing technique (IPT) in sediments with Anne Giblin and Jane Tucker
  4. Gas-flow soil core with N2 chromatography with Klaus Butterbach-Bahl and Nicolas Brueggemann
  5. Groundwater denitrification sampling with Tom Fisher and Anne Gustafson
  6. Whole-reach river denitrification with Andy Laursen

Additional Methods References

  1. Unisense NOx biosensors with Kevin Kroeger
  2. Membrana/Liqui-Cel liquid degassing technology (micromodule) with Mark Altabet
  3. Denitrification methods review with Peter Groffman
  4. MIMS methods sediment probe with Hilairy Hartnett

Hot and Controversial Topics References

  1. Reversal of the net N2 flux with R. Wally Fulweiler
  2. Alternative pathways with Amy Burgin

Below are pertinent references for each technique.  Copyright restrictions prevent the posting of full-text publications on this site.  However, where available, links to papers posted on authors' personal or institutional websites are provided.

N2:Ar Membrane Inlet Mass Spectrometry (MIMS)[Also see the online training module]

  1. Kana, T. M., C. Darkangelo, M. D. Hunt, J. B. Oldham, G. E. Bennett, and J. C. Cornwell. 1994. A membrane inlet mass spectrometer for rapid high precision determination of N2, O2, and Ar in environmental water samples. Analytical Chemistry 66: 4166-4170. [Full Text]
  2. Kana, T. M., M. B. Sullivan, J. C. Cornwell and K. Groszkowski. 1998. Denitrification in estuarine sediments determined by membrane inlet mass spectrometry. Limnology and Oceanography 43:334-339. [Full Text]
  3. Kana, T. M., J. C. Cornwell, L. Zhong. 2006. Determination of denitrification in the Chesapeake Bay from measurements of N2 accumulation in bottom water. Estuaries and Coasts 29:222-231. [Publisher] [Author]

Aquatic denitrification using MIMS N2:Ar
Cornwell, J. C., W. M. Kemp, and T. M. Kana. 1999. Denitrification in coastal ecosystems: methods, environmental controls, and ecosystem level controls, a review. Aquatic Ecology 33:41-54. [Publisher]

Isotope pairing technique (IPT) in sediments

  1. Nielsen, L. P. 1992. Denitrification in sediment determined from nitrogen isotope pairing. FEMS Microbiology Letters 86:357-362. [Publisher]
  2. Steingruber, S. M., J. Friedrich, R. Gächter, and B. Wehrli. 2001. Measurement of denitrification in sediments with the 15N isotope pairing technique. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 67:3771-3778. [PubMed Central Full Text]
  3. Dalsgaard, T. (ed.), L. P. Nielsen, V. Brotas, P. Viaroli, G. Underwood, D.B. Nedwell, K. Sundbäck, S. Rysgaard, A. Miles, M. Bartoli, L. Dong, D.C.O. Thornton, L.D.M. Ottosen, G. Castaldelli, and N. Risgaard-Petersen. 2000: Protocol handbook for NICE – Nitrogen Cycling in Estuaries: A project under the EU research programme: Marine Science and Technology (MAST III). National Environmental Research Institute, Silkeborg, Denmark. 62 pp. [NICE Project] [Handbook]


Gas-flow soil core with N2 chromatography

Butterbach-Bahl, K., G. Willibald and H. Papen. 2002. Soil core method for direct simultaneous determination of N2 and N2O emissions from forest soils. Plant and Soil 240:105-116. [Publisher]

Whole-reach river denitrification [Also see the online training module]
* Data analysis spreadsheet from open-system (Horn Point pond) experiment [Excel]

  1. Laursen, A. E., and S. P. Seitzinger. 2002. Measurement of denitrification in rivers: an integrated, whole-reach approach. Hydrobiologia 485: 67-81. [Author]
  2. McCutchan, J., J. F. Saunders, A. L. Pribyl, and W. M. Lewis. 2003. Open-channel estimation of denitrification. Limnology and Oceanography: Methods 1: 74-81. [Full Text]
  3. Laursen, A. E., and S. P. Seitzinger. 2004. Diurnal patterns of denitrification, oxygen consumption and nitrous oxide production in rivers measured at the whole-reach scale. Freshwater Biology 49: 1448-1458. [Author]
  4. Laursen, A. E., and S. P. Seitzinger. 2005. Limitations to measuring denitrification at the whole reach scale: effects of channel geometry, wind velocity, sampling interval, temperature, and inputs of N2-enriched groundwater. Hydrobiologia 545: 225-236. [Author]

Denitrification methods review
Groffman, P. M., M. A. Altabet, J. K. Böhlke, K. Butterbach-Bahl, M. B. David, M. K. Firestone, A. E. Giblin, T. M. Kana, L. P. Nielsen, and M. A. Voytek.  2006.  Methods for measuring denitrification: Diverse approaches to a difficult problem.  Ecological Applications 16(6):2091-2122. [Publisher] [Author]

MIMS sediment probe
Hartnett, H. E., and S. P. Seitzinger. 2003. High-resolution nitrogen gas profiles in sediment porewaters using a new probe for membrane-inlet mass spectrometry. Marine Chemistry 83 (1-2):23-30. [Publisher] [Author]

Reversal of the net N2 flux
Fulweiler, R. W., S. W. Nixon, B. A. Buckley and S. L. Granger.  2007.  Reversal of the net dinitrogen gas flux in coastal marine sediments.  Nature 448: 180-182. [Publisher]

Alternative pathways
Burgin, A.J. and S.K. Hamilton. 2007. Have we overemphasized the role of denitrification in aquatic ecosystems? A review of nitrate removal pathways.  Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 5(2): 89-96. [Publisher] [Author]