High Nitrite Levels off Northern Peru: A Signal of Instability in the Marine Denitrification Rate

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Science  12 Sep 1986:
Vol. 233, Issue 4769, pp. 1200-1202
DOI: 10.1126/science.233.4769.1200


During February and March 1985, nitrite levels along the northern (approximately 7° to 10°S) Peruvian coast were unusually high. These accumulations occurred in oxygen-deficient waters, suggesting intensified denitrification. In a shallow offshore nitrite maximum, concentrations were as high as 23 micromoles per liter (a record high). Causes for the unusual conditions may include a cold anomaly that followed the 1982-83 El Niño. The removal of combined nitrogen (approximately 3 to 10 trillion grams of nitrogen per year) within zones of new or enhanced denitrification observed between 7° to 16°S suggests a significant increase in oceanic denitrification.