Massive Nitrogen Loss Over the Western Indian Continental Shelf During Seasonal Anoxia: Evidence From Isotope Pairing Technique
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The western Indian continental shelf houses the world's largest naturally formed coastal low-oxygen zone that develops seasonally during the summer monsoon. We investigated multiple reductive nitrogen transformation pathways and quantified their rates in this system through anaerobic incubations with additions of 15 N-labeled substrates during the anoxic period for three consecutive years (2008-2010). Addition of 15 N labeled ammonium (15 NH 4 +) resulted in low to moderate anaerobic ammonia oxidation (Anammox) rates in about half of our incubations from the oxygen depleted waters. In contrast, incubations with labeled nitrite (15 NO 2 -) led to large production of 30 N 2 over 29 N 2 in all incubation experiments, indicating denitrification to be the dominant N-loss pathway. Rates of dissimilatory nitrate/nitrite reduction to ammonium (DNRA) were found to be highly variable and were lower by an order of magnitude than the denitrification rates. Extrapolation of average rates over the sampling periods and volume of anoxic waters showed large nitrogen removal (3.70-11.1 Tg year -1) which is about three times as high as the previously reported estimate (1.3-3.8 Tg year -1). Despite the small area it occupies, this shallow seasonal anoxic zone may account for as much as 20-60% the of the total annual fixed nitrogen loss in the perennial oxygen minimum zone of the Arabian Sea.
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