Denitrification (N2 production) and oxygen consumption rates were measured at ambient field nitrate concentrations during summer in sediments from eight wetlands (mixed hardwood swamps, cedar swamps, heath dominated shrub wetland, herbaceous peatland, and a wetland lacking live vegetation) and two streams. The study sites included wetlands in undisturbed watersheds and in watersheds with considerable agricultural and/or sewage treatment effluent input. Denitrification rates measured in intact cores of water-saturated sediment ranged from less-than-or-equal-to 20 to 260 mumol N m-2 h-1 among the three undisturbed wetlands and were less variable (180 to 260 mumol N m-2 h-1) among the four disturbed wetlands. Denitrification rates increased when nitrate concentrations in the overlying water were increased experimentally (1 up to 770 muM), indicating that nitrate was an important factor controlling denitrification rates. However, rates of nitrate uptake from the overlying water were not a good predictor of denitrification rates because nitrification in the sediments also supplied nitrate for denitrification. Regardless of the dominant vegetation, pH, or degree of disturbance, denitrification rates were best correlated with sediment oxygen consumption rates (r2 = 0.912) indicating a relationship between denitrification and organic matter mineralization and/or sediment nitrification rates. Rates of denitrification in the wetland sediments were similar to those in adjacent stream sediments. Rates of denitrification in these wetlands were within the range of rates previously reported for water-saturated wetland sediments and flooded soils using whole core N-15 techniques that quantify coupled nitrification/denitrification, and were higher than rates reported from aerobic (non-saturated) wetland sediments using acetylene block methods.
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