Temperature is one of the fundamental environmental variables governing microbially mediated denitrification and anaerobic ammonium oxidation (anammox) in sediments. The GHG nitrous oxide (N2O) is produced during denitrification, but not by anammox, and knowledge of how these pathways respond to global warming remains limited. Here, we show that warming directly stimulates denitrification-derived N2O production and that the warming response for N2O production is slightly higher than the response for denitrification in subtropical sediments. Moreover, denitrification had a higher optimal temperature than anammox. Integrating our data into a global compilation indicates that denitrifiers are more thermotolerant, whereas anammox bacteria are relatively psychrotolerant. Crucially, recent summer temperatures in low-latitude sediments have exceeded the optimal temperature of anammox, implying that further warming may suppress anammox and direct more of the nitrogen flow towards denitrification and associated N2O production, leading to a positive climate feedback at low latitudes.
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This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC no. 91851209, 41721005, 41561164019 and 41806092). This is State Key Laboratory of Marine Environment Science contribution no. melpublication2019349. J.J.M. was supported by the Netherlands Earth System Science Center. Special acknowledgment to intensive field and laboratory work by J. C. Xu.
The authors declare no competing interests.
Peer review information Nature Climate Change thanks Rachel Horak, Jeremy Rich and Mark Trimmer for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
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Tan, E., Zou, W., Zheng, Z. et al. Warming stimulates sediment denitrification at the expense of anaerobic ammonium oxidation. Nat. Clim. Chang. 10, 349–355 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-020-0723-2