Atmospheric inputs of dissolved organic nitrogen stimulate estuarine bacteria and phytoplankton

Seitzinger, S. P., R. W. Sanders

Limnol. Oceanogr., 44(3), 1999, 721-730 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.1999.44.3.0721

ABSTRACT: Abstract—Atmospheric deposition is recognized as a potentially large source of inorganic nutrients to many ecosystems. In marine systems, where nitrogen (N) is the nutrient typically limiting phytoplankton growth, rainwater is often a significant source of N. Although a considerable portion of atmospheric N deposition is in the form of organic N, only the inorganic N in rainwater has been considered by most previous studies. Laboratory experiments presented here indicate that dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) from rainwater can stimulate productivity of coastal marine bacteria and phytoplankton. A large percent of rainwater DON was potentially biologically available; 45-75% was rapidly utilized by the microorganisms. The magnitude of the response of bacterial and phytoplankton biomass to equivalent amounts of DON-N or ammonium-N was similar. However, the community composition of phytoplankton at the end of the experiment differed in treatments receiving DON and inorganic N. Diatoms and dinoflagellates accounted for >90% of the phytoplankton biomass in treatments receiving rainwater DON. In contrast, small (<2 um) monads accounted for >85% of the biomass in the treatments receiving ammonium. The results indicate that DON in rainwater can be an important source of N to ecosystems.

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