, Volume 489, Issue 1, pp 21-27

First online:

Physiological indicators of nutrient deficiency in phytoplankton in southern Chilean lakes

  • Gail S. SteinhartAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell UniversityInstitute of Ecosystem Studies
  • , Gene E. LikensAffiliated withInstitute of Ecosystem Studies
  • , Doris SotoAffiliated withFacultad de Pesquerías y Oceanografía, Universidad Austral de Chile

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We assessed the nutrient status of phytoplankton in 28 lakes in southern Chile using two types of physiological indicators: specific alkaline phosphatase activity, and the elemental composition (carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus) of seston. Alkaline phosphatase activity ranged from 0.001 to 0.11 μmol P μg chl−1 h−1, with P-deficiency indicated in about one-half the study lakes. C:N ranged from 3.9 to 24, C:P ranged from 86 to 919, and N:P ranged from 8.7 to 99. C:P and N:P ratios greater than the Redfield ratio were common, suggesting P deficiency in many of the lakes. C:N ratios were not generally indicative of N deficiency. Previous studies have suggested N may be the primary limiting nutrient in southern Chilean lakes, but our results indicate that P should not be discounted as a limiting nutrient.

nutrient limitation phytoplankton Chile seston composition