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Integration Across Landscapes and Waterscapes

Denitrification RCN Overview


Humans have dramatically altered the earth’s nitrogen (N) cycle. Anthropogenic introduction of N into the biosphere now exceeds biological N2-fixation in native terrestrial ecosystems, resulting in substantial negative human and environment health effects. Denitrification (microbial production of N2 from reactive N) is the only process that permanently removes reactive N from the environment. Denitrification occurs in almost all terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and (some) oceanic ecosystems. Despite many denitrification studies, only a few locations have measurements adequate to quantify rates or to understand factors controlling denitrification at the ecosystem scale. Two major impediments are the analytical difficulty of quantifying N2 production by denitrification and fragmentation of the highly diverse denitrification research community (e.g., using ecosystem vs. methodological approaches). This lack of interdisciplinary exchange impedes spread of knowledge about denitrification and impedes applications of methodological advances across ecosystems.

Overall Goals

The overall objective of this Denitrification RCN is to develop a coordinated network of denitrification scientists from a wide array of disciplines, from molecular biology to ecosystem science, and from soil science to oceanography. The Denitrification RCN will advance the following three fundamental and related areas:

  1. Quantification of denitrification rates
  2. Development of quantitative, process-based relationships between rates of denitrification and controlling factors, and
  3. Production of spatially explicit, process-based models that can be used to scale-up site specific measurements to ecosystem, regional and global scales.


The mechanisms we will use to for facilitating these goals include coordination of:

  • Training and information workshops
  • An interactive web-based database that includes: contact information for expertise in denitrification measurements or models; on-line training, answers to FAQs and an open posting message board for specific denitrification methods and models; denitrification publications; products of RCN-sponsored workshops; and notices of new workshops, etc.
  • Interdisciplinary education of undergraduate, graduate students and post-docs
  • Targeted integrative special sessions at major scientific meetings
  • Publications of both the science findings and of the management and policy relevant implications


The Denitrification RCN network is open to all individuals (both inside and outside the US) who are involved in denitrification research in ecosystems ranging from terrestrial to aquatic (both freshwater and marine) and human engineered systems. This includes a broad range of scientists who are measuring and modeling denitrification and associated controlling factors, statisticians, remote sensing specialists and instrument and sensor development specialists, among others. People from academic institutions, government agencies, environmental managers and private companies are welcome.

Long Term Vision/Unique Outcomes

Our long-term (10-15 year) vision is to have spatially explicit maps of denitrification rates for the entire earth system under current conditions, as well as past and hypothetical (future) scenarios. Toward that objective the RCN will:

  • Facilitate the sharing of recent methodological advances in denitrification measurement and models
  • Stimulate additional methodological improvements
  • Enhance coordination of research activities and facilitate new joint research programs in under-sampled ecosystems and geographical regions
  • Promote synthesis and integration at various scales
  • Catalyze and stimulate interaction of scientists with policy-makers and managers on denitrification issues of concern to society