Sulfide-induced nitrate reduction in the sludge of an anaerobic digester of a zero-discharge recirculating mariculture system

Yonatan Sher, Kenneth Schneider, Carsten U. Schwermer, Jaap van Rijn*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


The anaerobic digester is a vital component in a zero-discharge mariculture system as therein most of the organic matter is mineralized and nitrogen-containing compounds are converted to gaseous N2. Although denitrification is a major respiratory process in this nitrate-rich treatment stage, also sulfate respiration takes place and may cause undesirable high sulfide concentrations in the effluent water. To examine the effect of sulfide on nitrate reduction, in situ depth profiles of inorganic nitrogen and sulfur compounds were determined. Additionally, nitrate reduction was examined as a function of ambient sulfide concentrations in sludge collected from different locations in the anaerobic reactor. Depth profiles showed high concentrations of nitrate and low concentrations of sulfide and ammonia in the aqueous layer of the reactor. A sharp decrease of nitrate and an increase in sulfide and ammonia concentrations was measured at the water-sludge interface. Nitrate reduction was highest in this interface zone with rates of up to 8.05 ± 0.57 μmol NO3- h-1 g(sludge)-1. Addition of sulfide increased the nitrate reduction rate at all sludge depths, pointing to the important role of autotrophic denitrification in the anaerobic reactor. Dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonia (DNRA) was found to be low in all sludge layers but was enhanced when sludge was incubated at high sulfide concentrations. Although nitrate reduction rates increased as a result of sulfide addition to sludge samples, no differences in nitrate reduction rates were observed between the samples incubated with different initial sulfide concentrations. This as opposed to sulfide oxidation rates, which followed Michaelis-Menten enzymatic kinetics. Partial oxidation of sulfide to elemental sulfur instead of a complete oxidation to sulfate, could explain the observed patterns of nitrate reduction and sulfide oxidation in sludge incubated with different initial sulfide concentrations.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)4386-4392
Number of pages7
JournalWater Research
Issue number16
StatePublished - Oct 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding was provided to JvR by grant # MB-8701-04 of the United States–Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund.


  • Autotrophic denitrification
  • Denitrification
  • Dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonia
  • Mariculture systems
  • Nitrate reduction pathways
  • Sulfide oxidation


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