Various studies have been conducted to investigate effects of dams on river ecosystems, but less information is available regarding damming impacts on downstream denitrification. We measured denitrification enzyme activity (potential denitrification rate) and denitrifier abundances (using nirS, nirK, and nosZ as markers) in dammed headstreams of the Nakdong River in South Korea. Sediments in Phragmites-dominated riparian areas and in-stream areas across streams (dammed vs. reference) with different streambed materials (gravel and sand) were sampled occasionally. We hypothesized that (i) the higher available N and C contents in sediments downstream of dams foster larger denitrifier communities than in the reference system and (ii) differences in potential denitrification rates across the systems correspond with denitrifier abundances. Despite 30 years of different hydrological management with dams and greater inorganic N and DOC contents in sediments downstream of dams, compared to the references, abundances of denitrifier communities and potential denitrification rates within the whole sediment were not significantly different across the systems. However, nirS and nosZ denitrifier abundances and potential denitrification rates were considerably increased in specific sediments downstream of dams (gravelly riparian and sandy in-stream) with regard to flooding events and seasonal temperature variation. nirK was not amplified in all sediments. Canonical correspondence analyses (CCA) revealed that the relationship between abundances of denitrifier communities and nutrient availabilities and potential denitrification rates was a weak one.
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