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  1. Abstract. Oxygen-deficient zones (ODZs) are major sites of net naturalnitrous oxide (N2O) production and emissions. In order to understandchanges in the magnitude of N2O production in response to globalchange, knowledge on the individual contributions of the major microbialpathways (nitrification and denitrification) to N2O production andtheir regulation is needed. In the ODZ in the coastal area off Peru, thesensitivity of N2O production to oxygen and organic matter wasinvestigated using 15N tracer experiments in combination with quantitative PCR (qPCR) andmicroarray analysis of total and active functional genes targeting archaeal amoAand nirS as marker genes for nitrification and denitrification, respectively.Denitrification was responsible formore »the highest N2O production with amean of 8.7 nmol L−1 d−1 but up to 118±27.8 nmol L−1 d−1 just below the oxic–anoxic interface. The highest N2O productionfrom ammonium oxidation (AO) of 0.16±0.003 nmol L−1 d−1occurred in the upper oxycline at O2 concentrations of 10–30 µmol L−1 which coincided with the highest archaeal amoA transcripts/genes.Hybrid N2O formation (i.e., N2O with one N atom from NH4+and the other from other substrates such as NO2-) was the dominantspecies, comprising 70 %–85 % of total produced N2O fromNH4+, regardless of the ammonium oxidation rate or O2concentrations. Oxygen responses of N2O production varied withsubstrate, but production and yields were generally highest below 10 µmol L−1 O2. Particulate organic matter additions increasedN2O production by denitrification up to 5-fold, suggesting increasedN2O production during times of high particulate organic matter export.High N2O yields of 2.1 % from AO were measured, but the overallcontribution by AO to N2O production was still an order of magnitudelower than that of denitrification. Hence, these findings show thatdenitrification is the most important N2O production process in low-oxygen conditions fueled by organic carbon supply, which implies a positivefeedback of the total oceanic N2O sources in response to increasingoceanic deoxygenation.« less