What They Saw
The organism was grown in continuous culture with limited oxygen, 5% glucose. Samples were removed and sparged with different mixtures of argon, oxygen, and deuterium. Gases are measured by mass spectrometer.
Their figure is pretty confusing, poorly designed, and poorly described, but as far as I can tell, when they added either 80% argon with 20% oxygen or 70% argon, 20% oxygen, and 10% deuterium, the oxygen goes down to near zero within about 5 minutes either way, at which point hydrogen production starts increasing and deuterium uptake slows down or stops. So it seems like oxygen is required for hydrogenase to work.
They tried again with the addition of some carbon monoxide and acetylene to inhibit hydrogenase. This didn't really change the oxygen consumption, but deuterium consumption was a lot lower. Hydrogen evolution was the same.
What This Means
The deuterium consumption is by hydrogenase, of course, and it seems like oxygen is a necessary electron acceptor for it to function (in the absence of something else). But it seems like the increase in hydrogen evolution is not because hydrogenase stopped working, but rather because nitrogenase started, as oxygen stopped interfering. This is something we've seen before.
Oxygen is important for many things: it provides energy by accepting electrons, powering the nitrogenase and allowing more hydrogen production. It accepts electrons from hydrogenase, enabling hydrogen oxidation. It inhibits nitrogenase, reducing hydrogen production. Pretty confusing.