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The presence of denitrifiers in bacterial communities of urban stormwater best management practices (BMPs)

December 3, 2021

Stormwater best management practices (BMPs) are engineered structures that attempt to mitigate the impacts of stormwater, which can include nitrogen inputs from the surrounding drainage area. The goal of this study was to assess bacterial community composition in different types of stormwater BMP soils to establish whether a particular BMP type harbors more denitrification potential. Soil sampling took place over the summer of 2015 following precipitation events. Soils were sampled from four bioretention facilities, four dry ponds, four surface sand filters, and one dry swale. 16S rRNA gene analysis of extracted DNA and RNA amplicons indicated high bacterial diversity in the soils of all BMP types sampled. An abundance of denitrifiers was also indicated in the extracted DNA using presence/absence of nirS, nirK, and nosZ denitrification genes. BMP soil bacterial communities were impacted by the surrounding soil physiochemistry. Based on the identification of a metabolically-active community of denitrifiers, this study has indicated that denitrification could potentially occur under appropriate conditions in all types of BMP sampled, including surface sand filters that are often viewed as providing low potential for denitrification. The carbon content of incoming stormwater could be providing bacterial communities with denitrification conditions. The findings of this study are especially relevant for land managers in watersheds with legacy nitrogen from former agricultural land use.