, Volume 140, Issue 3, pp 458–467 | Cite as

Carbon and nitrogen stoichiometry and nitrogen cycling rates in streams

  • Walter K. DoddsEmail author
  • Eugenia Martí
  • Jennifer L. Tank
  • Jeffrey Pontius
  • Stephen K. Hamilton
  • Nancy B. Grimm
  • William B. Bowden
  • William H. McDowell
  • Bruce J. Peterson
  • H. Maurice Valett
  • Jackson R. Webster
  • Stan Gregory
Ecosystem Ecology


Stoichiometric analyses can be used to investigate the linkages between N and C cycles and how these linkages influence biogeochemistry at many scales, from components of individual ecosystems up to the biosphere. N-specific NH4+ uptake rates were measured in eight streams using short-term 15N tracer additions, and C to N ratios (C:N) were determined from living and non-living organic matter collected from ten streams. These data were also compared to previously published data compiled from studies of lakes, ponds, wetlands, forests, and tundra. There was a significant negative relationship between C:N and N-specific uptake rate; C:N could account for 41% of the variance in N-specific uptake rate across all streams, and the relationship held in five of eight streams. Most of the variation in N-specific uptake rate was contributed by detrital and primary producer compartments with large values of C:N and small values for N-specific uptake rate. In streams, particulate materials are not as likely to move downstream as dissolved N, so if N is cycling in a particulate compartment, N retention is likely to be greater. Together, these data suggest that N retention may depend in part on C:N of living and non-living organic matter in streams. Factors that alter C:N of stream ecosystem compartments, such as removal of riparian vegetation or N fertilization, may influence the amount of retention attributed to these ecosystem compartments by causing shifts in stoichiometry. Our analysis suggests that C:N of ecosystem compartments can be used to link N-cycling models across streams.


Carbon Carbon:Nitrogen ratio Nitrogen Stoichiometry Streams 



We thank D. Gudder for technical assistance, as well as the participation of all the Lotic Intersite Nitrogen eXperiment grant (LINX) project workers. Thanks to Linda Ashkenas and Jeff Merriam for data and Ed Rastetter for modeling the expected slope of the N-uptake vs. C:N relationship. The research was supported by the United States National Science Foundation, LINX and the Konza Long-Term Ecological Research grant. This is publication 01-147-J from the Kansas Agricultural Experiment Station.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Walter K. Dodds
    • 1
    Email author
  • Eugenia Martí
    • 2
  • Jennifer L. Tank
    • 3
  • Jeffrey Pontius
    • 4
  • Stephen K. Hamilton
    • 5
  • Nancy B. Grimm
    • 6
  • William B. Bowden
    • 7
  • William H. McDowell
    • 8
  • Bruce J. Peterson
    • 9
  • H. Maurice Valett
    • 10
  • Jackson R. Webster
    • 10
  • Stan Gregory
    • 11
  1. 1.Division of BiologyKansas State UniversityManhattanUSA
  2. 2.Centre d’ Estudis Avancats deBlanesCami de Sta. Barabra s/nGironaSpain
  3. 3.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of Notre DameNotre DameUSA
  4. 4.Department of Statistics, Dickens HallKansas State UniversityManhattanUSA
  5. 5.Kellogg Biological Station Hickory CornersUSA
  6. 6.School of Life SciencesArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  7. 7.School of Natural ResourcesUniversity of Vermont BurlingtonUSA
  8. 8.Department of Natural Resources, James HallUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA
  9. 9.Marine Biological LaboratoryEcosystems CenterWoods HoleUSA
  10. 10.Department of BiologyVirginia Polytechnic Institute and State UniversityBlacksburgUSA
  11. 11.Department of Fisheries and WildlifeOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA

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