Biogeochemistry

, Volume 46, Issue 1–3, pp 109–148 | Cite as

The impact of accelerating land-use change on the N-Cycle of tropical aquatic ecosystems: Current conditions and projected changes

  • J. A. Downing
  • M. Mcclain
  • R. Twilley
  • J. M. Melack
  • J. Elser
  • N. N. Rabalais
  • W. M. LewisJr.
  • R. E. Turner
  • J. Corredor
  • D. Soto
  • A. Yanez-Arancibia
  • J. A. Kopaska
  • R. W. Howarth
Article

Abstract

Published data and analyses from temperate and tropical aquatic systems are used to summarize knowledge about the potential impact of land-use alteration on the nitrogen biogeochemistry of tropical aquatic ecosystems, identify important patterns and recommend key needs for research. The tropical N-cycle is traced from pre-disturbance conditions through the phases of disturbance, highlighting major differences between tropical and temperate systems that might influence development strategies in the tropics. Analyses suggest that tropical freshwaters are more frequently N-limited than temperate zones, while tropical marine systems may show more frequent P limitation. These analyses indicate that disturbances to pristine tropical lands will lead to greatly increased primary production in freshwaters and large changes in tropical freshwater communities. Increased freshwater nutrient flux will also lead to an expansion of the high production, N- and light-limited zones around river deltas, a switch from P- to N-limitation in calcareous marine systems, with large changes in the community composition of fragile mangrove and reef systems. Key information gaps are highlighted, including data on mechanisms of nutrient transport and atmospheric deposition in the tropics, nutrient and material retention capacities of tropical impoundments, and N/P coupling and stoichiometric impacts of nutrient supplies on tropical aquatic communities. The current base of biogeochemical data suggests that alterations in the N-cycle will have greater impacts on tropical aquatic ecosystems than those already observed in the temperate zone.

Key words

estuaries lakes marine nitrogen phosphorus rivers streams temperate tropics 

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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. A. Downing
    • 1
  • M. Mcclain
    • 2
  • R. Twilley
    • 3
  • J. M. Melack
    • 4
  • J. Elser
    • 5
  • N. N. Rabalais
    • 6
  • W. M. LewisJr.
    • 7
  • R. E. Turner
    • 8
  • J. Corredor
    • 9
  • D. Soto
    • 10
  • A. Yanez-Arancibia
    • 11
  • J. A. Kopaska
    • 1
  • R. W. Howarth
    • 12
  1. 1.Department of Animal EcologyIowa State UniversityAmesUSA
  2. 2.RSMAS-MGGUniversity of MiamiMiamiUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiologyUniversity of Southwestern LouisianaLafayetteUSA
  4. 4.Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine BiologyUniversity of CaliforniaSanta BarbaraUSA
  5. 5.Department of ZoologyArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  6. 6.Louisiana Universities Marine ConsortiumChauvinUSA
  7. 7.Center for Limnology, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental SciencesUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA
  8. 8.Department of Oceanography and Coastal SciencesLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA
  9. 9.Department of Marine ScienceUniversity of Puerto RicoMayaguez
  10. 10.Facultad de Pesquierías y Oceanografía, Instituto de Ciencias Naturales y ExactasUniversidad Austral de ChilePuerto MonttChile
  11. 11.Department of Coastal ResourcesInstitute of Ecology A.C.XalapaMexico
  12. 12.Section of Ecology and SystematicsCornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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