Lehmann Moritz F.

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Lehmann
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Moritz F.
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  • Article
    Nitrogen cycling in the deep sedimentary biosphere : nitrate isotopes in porewaters underlying the oligotrophic North Atlantic
    (Copernicus Publications on behalf of the European Geosciences Union, 2015-12-21) Wankel, Scott D. ; Buchwald, Carolyn ; Ziebis, Wiebke ; Wenk, Christine B. ; Lehmann, Moritz F.
    Nitrogen (N) is a key component of fundamental biomolecules. Hence, its cycling and availability are central factors governing the extent of ecosystems across the Earth. In the organic-lean sediment porewaters underlying the oligotrophic ocean, where low levels of microbial activity persist despite limited organic matter delivery from overlying water, the extent and modes of nitrogen transformations have not been widely investigated. Here we use the N and oxygen (O) isotopic composition of porewater nitrate (NO3−) from a site in the oligotrophic North Atlantic (Integrated Ocean Drilling Program – IODP) to determine the extent and magnitude of microbial nitrate production (via nitrification) and consumption (via denitrification). We find that NO3- accumulates far above bottom seawater concentrations (~ 21 μM) throughout the sediment column (up to ~ 50 μM) down to the oceanic basement as deep as 90 m b.s.f. (below sea floor), reflecting the predominance of aerobic nitrification/remineralization within the deep marine sediments. Large changes in the δ15N and δ18O of nitrate, however, reveal variable influence of nitrate respiration across the three sites. We use an inverse porewater diffusion–reaction model, constrained by the N and O isotope systematics of nitrification and denitrification and the porewater NO3- isotopic composition, to estimate rates of nitrification and denitrification throughout the sediment column. Results indicate variability of reaction rates across and within the three boreholes that are generally consistent with the differential distribution of dissolved oxygen at this site, though not necessarily with the canonical view of how redox thresholds separate nitrate regeneration from dissimilative consumption spatially. That is, we provide stable isotopic evidence for expanded zones of co-occurring nitrification and denitrification. The isotope biogeochemical modeling also yielded estimates for the δ15N and δ18O of newly produced nitrate (δ15NNTR (NTR, referring to nitrification) and δ18ONTR), as well as the isotope effect for denitrification (15ϵDNF) (DNF, referring to denitrification), parameters with high relevance to global ocean models of N cycling. Estimated values of δ15NNTR were generally lower than previously reported δ15N values for sinking particulate organic nitrogen in this region. We suggest that these values may be, in part, related to sedimentary N2 fixation and remineralization of the newly fixed organic N. Values of δ18ONTR generally ranged between −2.8 and 0.0 ‰, consistent with recent estimates based on lab cultures of nitrifying bacteria. Notably, some δ18ONTR values were elevated, suggesting incorporation of 18O-enriched dissolved oxygen during nitrification, and possibly indicating a tight coupling of NH4+ and NO2− oxidation in this metabolically sluggish environment. Our findings indicate that the production of organic matter by in situ autotrophy (e.g., nitrification, nitrogen fixation) supplies a large fraction of the biomass and organic substrate for heterotrophy in these sediments, supplementing the small organic-matter pool derived from the overlying euphotic zone. This work sheds new light on an active nitrogen cycle operating, despite exceedingly low carbon inputs, in the deep sedimentary biosphere.
  • Article
    Impact of reactive surfaces on the abiotic reaction between nitrite and ferrous iron and associated nitrogen and oxygen isotope dynamics
    (European Geosciences Union, 2020-08-28) Visser, Anna-Neva ; Wankel, Scott D. ; Niklaus, Pascal A. ; Byrne, James M. ; Kappler, Andreas A. ; Lehmann, Moritz F.
    Anaerobic nitrate-dependent Fe(II) oxidation (NDFeO) is widespread in various aquatic environments and plays a major role in iron and nitrogen redox dynamics. However, evidence for truly enzymatic, autotrophic NDFeO remains limited, with alternative explanations involving the coupling of heterotrophic denitrification with the abiotic oxidation of structurally bound or aqueous Fe(II) by reactive intermediate nitrogen (N) species (chemodenitrification). The extent to which chemodenitrification is caused (or enhanced) by ex vivo surface catalytic effects has not been directly tested to date. To determine whether the presence of either an Fe(II)-bearing mineral or dead biomass (DB) catalyses chemodenitrification, two different sets of anoxic batch experiments were conducted: 2 mM Fe(II) was added to a low-phosphate medium, resulting in the precipitation of vivianite (Fe3(PO4)2), to which 2 mM nitrite (NO−2) was later added, with or without an autoclaved cell suspension (∼1.96×108 cells mL−1) of Shewanella oneidensis MR-1. Concentrations of nitrite (NO−2), nitrous oxide (N2O), and iron (Fe2+, Fetot) were monitored over time in both set-ups to assess the impact of Fe(II) minerals and/or DB as catalysts of chemodenitrification. In addition, the natural-abundance isotope ratios of NO−2 and N2O (δ15N and δ18O) were analysed to constrain the associated isotope effects. Up to 90 % of the Fe(II) was oxidized in the presence of DB, whereas only ∼65 % of the Fe(II) was oxidized under mineral-only conditions, suggesting an overall lower reactivity of the mineral-only set-up. Similarly, the average NO−2 reduction rate in the mineral-only experiments (0.004±0.003 mmol L−1 d−1) was much lower than in the experiments with both mineral and DB (0.053±0.013 mmol L−1 d−1), as was N2O production (204.02±60.29 nmol L−1 d−1). The N2O yield per mole NO−2 reduced was higher in the mineral-only set-ups (4 %) than in the experiments with DB (1 %), suggesting the catalysis-dependent differential formation of NO. N-NO−2 isotope ratio measurements indicated a clear difference between both experimental conditions: in contrast to the marked 15N isotope enrichment during active NO−2 reduction (15εNO2=+10.3 ‰) observed in the presence of DB, NO−2 loss in the mineral-only experiments exhibited only a small N isotope effect (<+1 ‰). The NO−2-O isotope effect was very low in both set-ups (18εNO2 <1 ‰), which was most likely due to substantial O isotope exchange with ambient water. Moreover, under low-turnover conditions (i.e. in the mineral-only experiments as well as initially in experiments with DB), the observed NO−2 isotope systematics suggest, transiently, a small inverse isotope effect (i.e. decreasing NO−2 δ15N and δ18O with decreasing concentrations), which was possibly related to transitory surface complexation mechanisms. Site preference (SP) of the 15N isotopes in the linear N2O molecule for both set-ups ranged between 0 ‰ and 14 ‰, which was notably lower than the values previously reported for chemodenitrification. Our results imply that chemodenitrification is dependent on the available reactive surfaces and that the NO−2 (rather than the N2O) isotope signatures may be useful for distinguishing between chemodenitrification catalysed by minerals, chemodenitrification catalysed by dead microbial biomass, and possibly true enzymatic NDFeO.
  • Article
    Unchanged nitrate and nitrite isotope fractionation during heterotrophic and Fe(II)-mixotrophic denitrification suggest a non-enzymatic link between denitrification and Fe(II) oxidation
    (Frontiers Media, 2022-09-02) Visser, Anna-Neva ; Wankel, Scott D. ; Frey, Claudia ; Kappler, Andreas A. ; Lehmann, Moritz F.
    Natural-abundance measurements of nitrate and nitrite (NOx) isotope ratios (δ15N and δ18O) can be a valuable tool to study the biogeochemical fate of NOx species in the environment. A prerequisite for using NOx isotopes in this regard is an understanding of the mechanistic details of isotope fractionation (15ε, 18ε) associated with the biotic and abiotic NOx transformation processes involved (e.g., denitrification). However, possible impacts on isotope fractionation resulting from changing growth conditions during denitrification, different carbon substrates, or simply the presence of compounds that may be involved in NOx reduction as co-substrates [e.g., Fe(II)] remain uncertain. Here we investigated whether the type of organic substrate, i.e., short-chained organic acids, and the presence/absence of Fe(II) (mixotrophic vs. heterotrophic growth conditions) affect N and O isotope fractionation dynamics during nitrate (NO3–) and nitrite (NO2–) reduction in laboratory experiments with three strains of putative nitrate-dependent Fe(II)-oxidizing bacteria and one canonical denitrifier. Our results revealed that 15ε and 18ε values obtained for heterotrophic (15ε-NO3–: 17.6 ± 2.8‰, 18ε-NO3–:18.1 ± 2.5‰; 15ε-NO2–: 14.4 ± 3.2‰) vs. mixotrophic (15ε-NO3–: 20.2 ± 1.4‰, 18ε-NO3–: 19.5 ± 1.5‰; 15ε-NO2–: 16.1 ± 1.4‰) growth conditions are very similar and fall within the range previously reported for classical heterotrophic denitrification. Moreover, availability of different short-chain organic acids (succinate vs. acetate), while slightly affecting the NOx reduction dynamics, did not produce distinct differences in N and O isotope effects. N isotope fractionation in abiotic controls, although exhibiting fluctuating results, even expressed transient inverse isotope dynamics (15ε-NO2–: –12.4 ± 1.3 ‰). These findings imply that neither the mechanisms ordaining cellular uptake of short-chain organic acids nor the presence of Fe(II) seem to systematically impact the overall N and O isotope effect during NOx reduction. The similar isotope effects detected during mixotrophic and heterotrophic NOx reduction, as well as the results obtained from the abiotic controls, may not only imply that the enzymatic control of NOx reduction in putative NDFeOx bacteria is decoupled from Fe(II) oxidation, but also that Fe(II) oxidation is indirectly driven by biologically (i.e., via organic compounds) or abiotically (catalysis via reactive surfaces) mediated processes co-occurring during heterotrophic denitrification.