Phytoplankton nitrogen demand and the significance of internal and external nitrogen sources in a large shallow lake (Lake Balaton, Hungary)
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Since the middle of 1990s the trend of Lake Balaton towards an increasingly trophic status has been reversed, but N2-fixing cyanobacteria are occasionally dominant, endangering water quality in summer. The sources of nitrogen and its uptake by growing phytoplankton were therefore studied. Experiments were carried out on samples collected from the middle of the Eastern (Siófok) and Western (Keszthely) basins between February and October 2001. Ammonium, urea and nitrate uptake and ammonium regeneration were measured in the upper 5-cm layer of sediment using the 15N-technique. Ammonium was determined by an improved microdiffusion assay. N2 fixation rates were measured by the acetylene-reduction method. Ammonium regeneration rates in the sediment were similar in the two basins. They were relatively low in winter (0.13 and 0.16 μg N cm−3 day−1 in the Eastern and Western basin, respectively), increased slowly in the spring (0.38 and 0.45 μg N cm−3 day−1) and peaked in late summer (0.82 and 1.29 μg N cm−3 day−1, respectively). Ammonium uptake was predominant in spring in the Eastern basin and in summer in the Western basin, coincident with the cyanobacterial bloom. The amount of N2 fixed was less than one third of the internal load during summer when external N loading was insignificant. Potentially, the phytoplankton N demand could be supported entirely by the internal N load via ammonium regeneration in the water column and sediment. However, the quantity of N from ammonium regeneration in the upper layer of sediment combined with that from the water column would limit the standing phytoplankton crop in spring in both basins and in late summer in the Western basin, especially when the algal biomass increases suddenly.
KeywordsAmmonium regeneration Microdiffusion Nitrogen uptake 15N-technique
This work was supported by the Office of the Prime Minister of Hungary (MeH). Support from NATO in the form of travelling expenses to Tom Preston is gratefully acknowledged. We are very grateful to Gerd Slawyk for consultation about the microdiffusion method. We wish to thank the Western-Transdanubian Environmental and Water Authority for nutrient loading data. We are extremely grateful for Terézia Horváth, Erika Kozma and Géza Dobos for their assistance with the sampling and laboratory experiments.
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