Research ArticleECOLOGY

Large losses of ammonium-nitrogen from a rice ecosystem under elevated CO2

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Science Advances  16 Oct 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 42, eabb7433
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abb7433


Inputs of nitrogen into terrestrial ecosystems, mainly via the use of ammonium-based fertilizers in agroecosystems, are enormous, but the fate of this nitrogen under elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) is not well understood. We have taken advantage of a 15-year free-air CO2 enrichment study to investigate the influence of elevated CO2 on the transformation of ammonium-nitrogen in a rice ecosystem in which ammonium is usually assumed to be stable under anaerobic conditions. We demonstrate that elevated CO2 causes substantial losses of ammonium-nitrogen that result from anaerobic oxidation of ammonium coupled to reduction of iron. We identify a new autotrophic member of the bacterial order Burkholderiales that may use soil CO2 as a carbon source to couple anaerobic ammonium oxidation and iron reduction. These findings offer insight into the coupled cycles of nitrogen and iron in terrestrial ecosystems and raise questions about the loss of ammonium-nitrogen from arable soils under future climate-change scenarios.

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