Oxidation of ammonia and methane in an alkaline, saline lake

Joye, Samantha B., Tracey L. Connell, Laurence G. Miller, Ronald S. Oremland, Robert S. Jellison

Limnol. Oceanogr., 44(1), 1999, 178-188 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.1999.44.1.0178

ABSTRACT: The oxidation of ammonia (NH3) and methane (CH4) was investigated in an alkaline saline lake, Mono Lake, California (U.S.A.). Ammonia oxidation was examined in April and July 1995 by comparing dark 14CO2 fixation rates in the presence or absence of methyl fluoride (MeF), an inhibitor of NH3 oxidation. Ammonia oxidizer-mediated dark 14CO2 fixation rates were similar in surface (5-7 m) and oxycline (11-15 m) waters, ranging between 70-340 and 89-186 nM d-1, respectively, or 1-7% of primary production by phytoplankton. Ammonia oxidation rates ranged between 580-2,830 nM d-1 in surface waters and 732-1,548 nM d-1 in oxycline waters. Methane oxidation was examined using a 14 CH4 tracer technique in July 1994, April 1995, and July 1995. Methane oxidation rates were consistently higher in July, and rates in oxycline and anaerobic bottom waters (0.5-37 and 7-48 nM d-1, respectively) were 10-fold higher than those in aerobic surface waters (0.04-3.8 nM d-1). The majority of CH4 oxidation, in terms of integrated activity, occurred within anoxic bottom waters. Water column oxidation reduced the potential lake-atmosphere CH4 flux by a factor of two to three. Measured oxidation rates and water column concentrations were used to estimate the biological turnover times of NH3 and CH. The NH3 pool turns over rapidly, on time scales of 0.8 d in surface waters and 10 d within the oxycline, while CH4 is cycled on 103-d time scales in surface waters and 10-2 time scales within oxycline and bottom waters. Our data suggest an important role for NH3 oxidation in alkaline, saline lakes since the process converts volatile NH3 to soluble NO2-, thereby reducing loss via lake-atmosphere exchange and maintaining nitrogen in a form that is readily available to phyto-plankton.

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