Plant-Microbe Interactions Drive Denitrification Rates, Dissolved Nitrogen Removal, and the Abundance of Denitrification Genes in Stormwater Control Measures

Natalie Morse, Emily Payne, Rebekah Henry, Belinda Hatt, Gayani Chandrasena, James Shapleigh, Perran Cook, Scott Coutts, Jon Hathaway, M. Todd Walter, David McCarthy

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38 Citations (Scopus)


The microbial community and function along with nitrate/nitrite (NOx) removal rates, and nitrogen (N) partitioning into "uptake", "denitrification", and "remaining" via isotope tracers, were studied in soil bioretention mesocolumns (8 unique plant species). Total denitrification gene reads per million (rpm) were positively correlated with % denitrified (r = 0.69) but negatively correlated with total NOx removal following simulated rain events (r = -0.79). This is likely due to plant-microbe interactions. Plant species with greater root volume, plant and microbial assimilation %, and NOx removal % had lower denitrification genes and rates. This implies that although microorganisms have access to N, advantageous functions, like denitrification, may not increase. At the conclusion of the 1.5-year experiment, the microbial community was strongly influenced by plant species within the Top zone dominated by plant roots, and the presence or absence of a saturated zone influenced the microbial community within the Bottom zone. Leptospermum continentale was an outlier from the other plants and had much lower denitrification gene rpm (average 228) compared to the other species (range: 277 to 413). The antimicrobial properties and large root volume of Leptospermum continentale likely caused this denitrification gene depression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9320-9329
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - 21 Aug 2018

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