New insights on resource stoichiometry: assessing availability of carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus to bacterioplankton

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Soares, Ana ; Bergström, Ann-Kristin ; Sponseller, Ryan A. ; Marchlewska Moberg, Joanna ; Giesler, Reiner ; Kritzberg, Emma ; Jansson, Mats ; Berggren, Martin (2017)

Boreal lake and river ecosystems receive large quantities of organic nutrients and carbon (C) from their 10 catchments. How bacterioplankton respond to these inputs is not well understood, in part because we base our understanding and predictions on "total pools", yet we know little about the stoichiometry of bioavailable elements within the organic matter. We designed bioassays with the purpose to exhaust the pools of readily bioavailable dissolved organic carbon (BDOC), bioavailable dissolved nitrogen (BDN) and bioavailable dissolved phosphorus (BDP) as fast as possible. Applying the method in four boreal lakes at base flow conditions yielded concentrations of bioavailable resources that ranged from 105&ndash;693&thinsp;μg&thinsp;C&thinsp;L<sup>&minus;1</sup> for BDOC (2&thinsp;% of total DOC), 24&ndash;288&thinsp;μg&thinsp;N&thinsp;L<sup>&minus;1</sup> for BDN (31&thinsp;% of total dissolved nitrogen) and 0.2&ndash;17&thinsp;μg&thinsp;P&thinsp;L<sup>&minus;1</sup> for BDP (49&thinsp;% of total dissolved phosphorus). Thus, relative bioavailability increased from carbon (C) to nitrogen (N) to phosphorus (P). We show that the main part of bioavailable nutrient resources is organic, representing 80&thinsp;% of BDN and 61&thinsp;% of BDP. In addition, we demonstrate that total C&thinsp;:&thinsp;N and C&thinsp;:&thinsp;P ratios are as much as 13-fold higher than C&thinsp;:&thinsp;N and C&thinsp;:&thinsp;P ratios for bioavailable resource fractions. Further, by applying additional bioavailability measurements to seven widely 20 distributed rivers, we provide support for a general pattern of relatively high bioavailability of P and N in relation to C. Altogether, our findings underscore the role of C as limiting factor for bacterial growth in boreal C-rich freshwaters, and suggest that these ecosystems are very sensitive to increased input of bioavailable DOC.
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