Sediment nitrogen cycling rates and microbial abundance along a submerged vegetation gradient in a eutrophic lake
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Decline of submerged vegetation is one of the most serious ecological problems in eutrophic lakes worldwide. Although restoration of submerged vegetation is widely assumed to enhance ecological functions (e.g., nitrogen removal) and aquatic biodiversity, the evidence for this assumption is very limited. Here, we investigated the spatio-temporal patterns of sediment potential nitrification, unamended denitrification and N2O production rates along a vegetation gradient in the Lake Honghu, where submerged vegetation was largely restored by prohibiting net-pen aquaculture. We also used five functional genes as markers to quantify the abundance of sediment nitrifying and denitrifying microorganisms. Results showed that unvegetated sediments supported greater nitrification rates than rhizosphere sediments of perennial or seasonal vegetation. However, the absence of submerged vegetation had no significant effect on denitrification and N2O production rates. Additionally, the abundance of functional microorganisms in sediments was not significantly different among vegetation types. Season had a strong effect on both nitrogen cycling processes and microbial abundances. The highest nitrification rates were observed in September, while the highest denitrification rates occurred in December. The temporal variation of sediment nitrification, denitrification and N2O production rates could be due to changes in water quality and sediment properties rather than submerged vegetation and microbial abundances. Our findings highlight that vegetation restoration in eutrophic lakes improves water quality but does not enhance sediment nitrogen removal rates and microbial abundances. Therefore, for reducing the N level in eutrophic lakes, major efforts should be made to control nutrients export from terrestrial ecosystems.
Science of the Total Environment
Environmental Sciences not elsewhere classified