Scientists are trying to understand how populations of microorganisms regulate emissions of nitrous oxide from streams and rivers. Nitrous oxide is a potent greenhouse gas and contributor to climate change. The source of the gas is nitrate, a compound made up of nitrogen and oxygen, which is commonly used in fertilizers and finds its way into waterways from agricultural runoff.
Normally, denitrification results in harmless nitrogen gas. In some cases, however, one of the intermediate compounds, nitrous oxide, is emitted instead of nitrogen gas before the denitrification process completes.
Many researchers argue that rates of nitrous oxide production in natural systems may be influenced by the distribution of microorganisms and whether they have the ability to reduce nitrous oxide to nitrogen gas.
Posted by Tim Sandle