Effects of atmospheric nitrogen deposition on nutrient limitation and phytoplankton biomass in unproductive Swedish lakes

Bergström, Ann-Kristin, Peter Blomqvist, Mats Jansson

Limnol. Oceanogr., 50(3), 2005, 987-994 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2005.50.3.0987

ABSTRACT: We used chemical data (3,907 lakes) and phytoplankton biomass (chlorophyll a) data (225 lakes) from Swedish lake monitoring programs to assess the effects of atmospheric nitrogen (N) deposition on nutrient limitation and phytoplankton biomass in unproductive Swedish lakes. There was a clear north-south gradient of increasing lake concentrations of dissolved inorganic nitrogen, which was related to the pattern of atmospheric N input. On the basis of positive relationships between total phosphorus (P) concentrations and phytoplankton biomass we conclude that lakes in areas of enhanced N deposition are mainly P limited during summer. This relationship was not detected in lakes in pristine areas with low N deposition, which, together with experimental evidence from the literature, suggest possible N limitation. During summer, lakes in high N-deposition areas had clearly higher phytoplankton biomass relative to the total phosphorus concentrations compared to lakes in low N-deposition areas. Thus, in Swedish unproductive lakes, high atmospheric N input is reflected by increased lake concentrations of dissolved inorganic nitrogen and, possibly, by a shift from natural N limitation of phytoplankton to P limitation. Our results also reveal that increased N input has caused a eutrophication with higher phytoplankton biomass as the result.

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