Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a powerful atmospheric greenhouse gas and contributes towards the destruction of the ozone layer. The denitrification process is a major source of nitrous oxide in both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Under certain conditions, partial denitrifiers that incompletely denitrify nitrate to nitrous oxide can proliferate relative to complete denitrifiers, thus resulting in the increased production of nitrous oxide. The environmental conditions that select for partial denitrifiers over complete denitrifiers, however, remains unclear.
Here, we are assembling synthetic microbial communities consisting of partial and complete denitrifiers. We then track their dynamics and test for environmental conditions when partial denitrifiers have a selective advantage over complete denitrifiers, and thus when nitrous oxide is likely to be released to the environment. Our ultimate goal is to predict under which environmental and ecological conditions nitrous oxide is produced and leverage that knowledge to design interventions to minimize its production.