A review of how we assess denitrification in oyster habitats and proposed guidelines for future studies


Excess nitrogen (N) loading and resulting eutrophication plague coastal ecosystems globally. Much work is being done to remove N before it enters coastal receiving waters, yet these efforts are not enough. Novel techniques to remove N from within the coastal ecosystem are now being explored. One of these techniques involves using oysters and their habitats to remove N via denitrification. There is substantial interest in incorporating oyster-mediated enhancement of benthic denitrification into N management plans and trading schemes. Measuring denitrification, however, is expensive and time consuming. For large-scale adoption of oystermediated denitrification into nutrient management plans, we need an accurate model that can be applied across ecosystems. Despite significant effort to measure and report rates of denitrification in oyster habitats, we are unable to create such a model, due to methodological differences between studies, incomplete data reporting, and inconsistent measurements of environmental variables that may be used to predict denitrification. To make a model that can predict denitrification in oyster habitats a reality, a common sampling and reporting scheme is needed across studies. Here, we provide relevant background on how oysters may stimulate denitrification, and the importance of oyster-mediated denitrification in remediating excess N loading to coastal systems. We then summarize methods commonly used to measure denitrification in oyster habitats, discuss the importance of various environmental variables that may be useful for predicting denitrification, and present a set of guidelines for measuring denitrification in oyster habitats, allowing development of models to support incorporation of oyster-mediated denitrification into future policy decisions.

Limnology and Oceanography: Methods

Ray, N. E., Hancock, B., Brush, M. J., Colden, A., Cornwell, J., Labrie, M. S., Maguire, T.J., Maxwell, T., Rogers, D., Stevick, R.J., Unruh, A., Kellogg, M.L., Smyth, A.R., and Fulweiler, R. W. (2021). A review of how we assess denitrification in oyster habitats and proposed guidelines for future studies. Limnology and Oceanography: Methods, 19(10), 714-731. doi:10.1002/lom3.10456.