Effects of sterilization techniques on chemodenitrification and N2O production in tropical peat soil microcosms

Steffen Buessecker, Kaitlyn Tylor, Joshua Nye, Keith E. Holbert, Jose D.Urquiza Muñoz, Jennifer B. Glass, Hilairy E. Hartnett, Hinsby Cadillo-Quiroz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Chemodenitrification-the non-enzymatic process of nitrite reduction-may be an important sink for fixed nitrogen in tropical peatlands. Rates and products of chemodenitrification are dependent on O2, pH, Fe2+ concentration, and organic matter composition, which are variable across peat soils. Assessing abiotic reaction pathways is difficult because sterilization and inhibition agents can alter the availability of reactants by changing iron speciation and organic matter composition. We compared six commonly used soil sterilization techniques-γ irradiation, chloroform, autoclaving, and the use of three different chemical inhibitors (mercury, zinc, and azide)-for their compatibility with chemodenitrification assays for tropical peatland soils (organic-rich, low-pH soil from the eastern Amazon). Out of the six techniques, γ irradiation resulted in soil treatments with the lowest cell viability and denitrification activity and the least effect on pH, iron speciation, and organic matter composition. Nitrite depletion rates in γ-irradiated soils were highly similar to untreated (live) soils, whereas other sterilization techniques showed deviations. Chemodenitrification was a dominant process of nitrite consumption in tropical peatland soils assayed in this study. Nitrous oxide (N2O) is one possible product of chemodenitrification reactions. Abiotic N2O production was low to moderate (3 %-16 % of converted nitrite), and different sterilization techniques lead to significant variations on production rates due to inherent processes or potential artifacts. Our work represents the first methodological basis for testing the abiotic denitrification and N2O production potential in tropical peatland soil.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4601-4612
Number of pages12
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 5 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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