Aquatic Ecology

, Volume 41, Issue 4, pp 525–533 | Cite as

Influence of N/P ratio on competitive abilities for nitrogen and phosphorus by Microcystis aeruginosa and Aulacoseira distans

  • Marcelo Manzi Marinho
  • Sandra Maria Feliciano de Oliveira e Azevedo


Microcystis aeruginosa and Aulacoseira distans strains were grown in batch cultures to investigate the consequences of N/P ratio on the growth of these species and on their abilities to take up nitrogen and phosphorus. N/P ratio did not influence the growth rates, which were similar under all the experimental conditions. However, exponential growth lasted longer in Microcystis than in Aulacoseira, especially under low N/P ratio conditions. Distinct patterns of nutrient uptake for Aulacoseira and Microcystis were observed. N-uptake was higher in Microcystis, but not influenced by N/P ratio. However, the amount absorbed was proportional to the concentration in the culture medium for both strains studied. Although Microcystis showed lower uptake of N per biomass unit, a greater yield of Microcystis growth relative to the diatom was observed. This could have resulted from its ability to produce biomass using less nitrogen per unit of biomass. A variation of N/P ratio in the culture medium during the growth of both species was observed. This owed to the uptake of nutrients, with Microcystis showing greater potential than Aulacoseira to influence the N/P ratio. Thus, in contrast to what has been stated in the literature, our results indicated that a low N/P ratio could be a consequence of the capacities and rates of cyanobacterial uptake of nitrogen and phosphorus.


Competition Cyanobacteria Diatoms Growth N and P uptake Batch cultures 



This research was financially supported by Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Ensino Superior (CAPES) and Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq / Pronex – Proc. No. 421/96). We also thank a two anonymous reviewer for providing helpful suggestions on the manuscript.


  1. Aguiar DG, Azevedo SMFO (1998) Effect of different nutrient concentrations on growth and hepatotoxin production by Microcystis aeruginosa (Cyanobacteria). Verh Int Verein Theor Angew Limnol 26:1657–1658Google Scholar
  2. APHA (1995) Standard methods for the examination of water and wastewater. 19th edn. American Public Health Association, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  3. Arhonditsis GB, Brett MT (2005) Eutrophication model for Lake Washington (USA) Part I. Model description and sensitivity analysis. Ecol Model 187:140–178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barica J, Kling H, Gibson J (1980) Experimental manipulation of algal bloom composition by nitrogen addition. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 37:1175–1183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Blomqvist P, Pettersson A, Hyenstrand P (1994) Ammonium-nitrogen: a key regulatory factor causing dominance of non-nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria in aquatic systems. Arch Hydrobiol 132:141–164Google Scholar
  6. Bulgakov NG, Levich AP (1999) The nitrogen:phosphorus ratio as a factor regulating phytoplankton community structure. Arch Hydrobiol 146:3–22Google Scholar
  7. Canfield DE, Phlips E, Duarte CM (1989) Factors influencing the abundance of blue-green algae in Florida lakes. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 46:1232–1237Google Scholar
  8. Caraco N, Miller R (1998) Factors influencing the abundance of blue-green algae in Florida lakes. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 46:1232–1237Google Scholar
  9. Fogg GE, Thake B (1987) Algal cultures and phytoplankton ecology. University Wisconsin Press, MadisonGoogle Scholar
  10. Fujimoto N, Sudo R, Sugiura N, Inamori Y (1997) Nutrient-limited growth of Microcystis aeruginosa and Phormidium tenue and competition under various N:P supply ratios and temperatures. Limnol Oceanogr 42:250–256CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Ganf GG (1974) Diurnal mixing and the vertical distribution of phytoplankton in a shallow equatorial lake. J Ecol 62:611–629CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gorham PR, McLachlan UT, Hammer UT, Kim WK (1964) Isolation and culture of toxic strains of Anabaena flos-aquae (Lyngb.) de Bréb. Verh Int Verein Theor Angew Limnol 15:796–804Google Scholar
  13. Grover JP, Sterner RW, Robinson JL (1999) Algal growth in warm temperate reservoirs: nutrient-dependent kinetics of individual taxa and seasonal patterns of dominance. Arch Hydrobiol 145:1–23Google Scholar
  14. Guillard RRL, Lorentzen CF (1972) Yellow-green algae with chlorophyll – c. J Phycol 8:10–14Google Scholar
  15. Hecky R, Kling HJ (1987) Phytoplankton ecology of the great lakes in the rift valleys of central Africa. Arch Hydrobiol 25:197–228Google Scholar
  16. Horne AJ, Commins ML (1987) Macronutrient controls on nitrogen fixation in planktonic cyanobacterial populations. N Z J Mar Freshwater Res 21:423–433Google Scholar
  17. Huszar VLM, Caraco NF (1998) The relationship between phytoplankton composition and physical-chemical variables: a comparison of taxonomic and morphological-functional descriptors in six temperate lakes. Freshw Biol 40:679–696CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Jensen JP, Jeppesen E, Olrik K, Kristensen P (1994) Impact of nutrients and physical factors on the shift from cyanobacterial to chlorophyte dominance in shallow Danish lakes. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 51:1692–1699Google Scholar
  19. King DL (1970) The role of carbon in eutrophication. J Wat Pollut Control Fed 42:2035–2051Google Scholar
  20. Lee SJ, Jang MH, Kim HS, Yoon BD, Oh HM (2000) Variation of microcystin content of Microcystis aeruginosa relative to medium N:P ratio and growth stage. J Appl Microbiol 89:323–329PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Marinho MM, Huszar VLM (2002) Nutrient availability and physical conditions as controlling factors of phytoplankton composition and biomass in a tropical reservoir (Southeastern Brazil). Arch Hydrobiol 153:443–468Google Scholar
  22. McQueen DJ, Lean DRS (1987) Influence of water temperature and nitrogen to phosphorus ratios on the dominance of blue-green algae in Lake St. George, Ontario. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 44:598–604Google Scholar
  23. Michard M, Aleya L, Verneaux J (1996) Mass occurrence of the Cyanobacteria Microcystis aeruginosa in the hypertrophic Villerest Reservoir (Roann, France). Usefulness of the biyearly examination of N/P (nitrogen/phosphorus) and P/C (protein/carbohydrate) couplings. Arch Hydrobiol 135:337–359Google Scholar
  24. Nascimento SM, Azevedo SMFO (1999) Changes in cellular components in a cyanobacterium (Synechocystis aquatilis f. salina) subjected to different N/P ratios – An ecophysiological study. Environ Toxicol 14:37–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Oh HM, Rhee GY (1991) A comparative-study of microalgae isolated from flooded rice paddies – light-limited growth, C-fixation, growth efficiency and relative-N and relative-P requirement. J App Phycol 3:211–220CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Olsen Y (1989) Evaluation of competitive ability of Staurastrum luetkemuellerii (Chlorophyceae) and Microcystis aeruginosa (Cyanophyceae) under P limitation. J Phycol 25:486–499CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Pettersson K, Herlitz E, Istvánovics V (1993) The role of Gloeothrichia echinulata in transfer of phosphorus from sediments to water in lake Erken. Hydrobiologia 253:123–129CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Reynolds CS (1984) The ecology of freshwater phytoplankton. Cambridge University Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  29. Reynolds CS (1987) Cyanobacterial water-blooms. In: Callow J (ed) Advances in botanical research. Academic Press, London, pp 67–143Google Scholar
  30. Reynolds CS (1999) Non-determinism to probability, or N:P in the community ecology of phytoplankton. Arch Hydrobiol 146:23–35Google Scholar
  31. Shapiro J (1990) Currents beliefs regarding dominance by blue-greens: the case for the importance of CO2 and pH. Vehr int Verein theor angew Limnol 24:38–54Google Scholar
  32. Smith VH (1983) Low nitrogen to phosphorus ratios favour dominance by blue-green algae in lake phytoplankton. Science 221:669–671PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Smith VH (1986) Light and nutrient effects on the relative biomass of blue-green algae in lake phytoplankton. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 43:148–153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Smith VH, Bennett SJ (1999) Nitrogen:phosphorus supply ratios and phytoplankton community structure in lakes. Arch Hydrobiol 146:37–53Google Scholar
  35. Sommer U (1989) The role of competition for resources in phytoplankton succession. In: Sommer U (ed) Plankton ecology: succession in plankton communities. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, pp 57–106Google Scholar
  36. Takamura N, Iwakuma T, Yasuno M (1987) Uptake of 13C and 15N (ammonium, nitrate and urea) by Microcystis in Lake Kasumigaura. J Plankton Res 9:151–165CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Tilman D (1981) Test of resource competition theory using four species of Lake Michigan algae. Ecology 62:802–815CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Tilman D (1982) Resource competition and community structure. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  39. Tilman D, Kiesling R, Sterner R, Kilham SS, Johnson FA (1986) Green, blue green and diatom algae: taxonomic differences in competitive ability for phosphorus, silicon and nitrogen. Arch Hydrobiol 106:473–485Google Scholar
  40. Tilman D, Kilham SS, Kilham P (1982) Phytoplankton community ecology: the role of limiting nutrients. Ann Rev Ecol Syst 13:349–372CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Trimbee AM, Prepas EE (1987) Evaluation of total phosphorus as a predictor of the relative biomass of blue-green algae with emphasis on Alberta lakes. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 44:1337–1342CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Watson SB, McCauley E, Downing JA (1997) Patterns in phytoplankton taxonomic composition across temperate lakes of differing nutrient status. Limnol Oceanogr 42:487–495CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Xie L, Xie P, Li S, Tang H, Liu H (2003) The low TN:TP ratio, a cause or a result of Microcystis blooms? Water Res 37:2073–2080PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Zevenboom W, Mur LR (1980) N2-fixing cyanobacteria: why they do not become dominant in Dutch, hypertrophic lakes. Dev Hydrobiol 2:123–130Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marcelo Manzi Marinho
    • 1
  • Sandra Maria Feliciano de Oliveira e Azevedo
    • 2
  1. 1.Laboratório de Ecologia e Taxonomia de Algas – DBV/IBRAGUniversidade do Estado do Rio de JaneiroRio de JaneiroBrasil
  2. 2.Laboratório de Ecofisiologia e Toxicologia de Cianobactérias (LETC), Instituto de Biofísica Carlos Chagas FilhoUniversidade Federal do Rio de JaneiroRio de JaneiroBrasil

Personalised recommendations