, Volume 145, Issue 1-4, pp 341-357

Nitrogen Mobility at the Sediment-Water Interface of Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela

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Nitrogen is one of the two most important elements in the metabolism of aquatic ecosystems. At low concentrations it can limit primary productivity and when present at very high concentrations it can participate in the eutrophication process of these environments. The mechanism of nitrogen transport in sediments is almost unknown, nevertheless it is of vital importance for establishing mass balances in aquatic systems. In the study presented here, we assessed the nitrogen flux in sediments of the central part of tropical Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela, in particular with regard to dissolved oxygen concentrations. Experiments were performed under laboratoryconditions in a batch system, and at varying dissolved oxygenregimes (aerobic and anaerobic). Every two days, during 3 months,overlying water samples were taken to analyze nitrite, nitrate,ammonium and Kjeldahl total nitrogen. Average release rates oftotal nitrogen were 0.86 in aerobic, and 1.06 mmol N m-2 d-1 in anaerobic systems corresponding to 41.7% of total N input to the lake. The behavior of nitrogen was strongly influenced by nitrate concentrations under aerobic conditions, and by organic nitrogen under anaerobic conditions during the course of the experiment. A major trend for the release of organic nitrogen during anaerobic conditions, and of nitrate, during aerobic conditions, was observed. Also fluxes of NO3 -, NH4 +, organic N and Total N across the sediment-water interface were measured. In anaerobic conditions, which are predominant in the hypolimnetic cone of LakeMaracaibo, denitrification was estimated to be 0.02 mmol N m-2 d-1, which corresponds to 1.89% of the total N released from sediments.This is to our knowledge the first study of nitrogen fluxes insediments from Lake Maracaibo. The laboratory data presented herereflects conditions in the lake when major nutrients accumulation occurs.