Allochthonous organic carbon decreases pelagic energy mobilization in lakes
Limnol. Oceanogr., 48(4), 2003, 1711-1716 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2003.48.4.1711
ABSTRACT: Over the past decade, it has been shown that unproductive lakes worldwide are net heterotrophic because bacterial respiration of allochthonous organic carbon (AOC) makes community respiration exceed primary production. Net heterotrophy means that aquatic systems are net sources of CO2 to the atmosphere but also that bacterial utilization of AOC increases bacterioplankton production (BP) and bacterial uptake of limiting inorganic nutrients at the expense of phytoplankton production (PP). We studied 15 unproductive lakes in northern Sweden with dissolved organic carbon concentrations between 3 and 22 mg L-1. We found a highly significant negative relationship between the degree of heterotrophy and total pelagic energy mobilization (PP + BP based on AOC) per unit of limiting nutrient. We suggest that this is because the high cell phosphorous (P) requirement of bacteria makes energy mobilization per P unit considerably lower in bacterioplankton than in phytoplankton. We also suggest that the productivity of the entire pelagic ecosystem is determined by the availability of inorganic nutrients and AOC and by whether nutrients are allocated to BP or PP.