Estuarine nitrification: A naturally occurring fluidized bed reaction?

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The rates of nitrification in the water column of the Tamar river estuary, southwest England have been measured using the incorporation of H14CO3 in samples with and without the inhibitor of nitrification, 2-chloro-6-(trichloromethyl) pyridine (N-Serve). N-Serve proved successful in totally inhibiting NH4-oxidizing bacteria but the activity of NO2-oxidizing bacteria was inhibited by only 30%; other organisms were only slightly affected. Measurements of the nitrification rate made over the entire salinity range of the estuary (0-30‰) showed that maximum nitrification always coincided with the turbidity maximum. The field data suggest that the organisms responsible for nitrification were associated with periodically resuspended particulate material and that the turbidity maximum acts in a manner similar to a fluidized bed reactor. A dispersion model has been used to demonstrate that nitrification in the water column can account for 100% of the NO2 maximum which is apparent down estuary from the turbidity maximum.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-44
Number of pages14
JournalEstuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1986


  • ammonia
  • England Coast
  • estuaries
  • nitrification
  • nitrites
  • nitrogen cycle


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