, Volume 737, Issue 1, pp 183–200 | Cite as

Influence of Potamogeton pectinatus and microphytobenthos on benthic metabolism, nutrient fluxes and denitrification in a freshwater littoral sediment in an agricultural landscape: N assimilation versus N removal

  • Daniele NizzoliEmail author
  • David T. Welsh
  • Daniele Longhi
  • Pierluigi Viaroli


The influence of Potamogeton pectinatus colonisation on benthic nitrogen dynamics was studied in the littoral zone of a lowland pit lake with high nitrate concentration (~200 μM). Our hypothesis was that in aquatic environments where nitrogen availability is not limiting, colonisation by rooted macrophytes changes the dynamics of the benthic nitrogen cycle, stimulating N assimilation and denitrification and increasing the system capacity to take up external nitrogen loads. To test this hypothesis, we quantified and compared seasonal variations of light and dark benthic metabolism, dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) fluxes, denitrification and N assimilation rates in an area colonised by P. pectinatus and a reference site colonised by microphytobenthos. In both areas, the benthic system was net autotrophic and a sink for DIN (2,241–2,644 mmol m−2 y−1). Plant colonisation increased nitrogen losses via denitrification by 30% compared to the unvegetated area. In contrast to what is generally observed in coastal marine systems, where the presence of rooted macrophytes limits denitrification rates, under the very high nitrate concentrations in the studied lake, both denitrification (1,237–1,570 mmol m−2 y−1) and N assimilation (1,039–1,095 mmol m−2 y−1) played important and comparable roles in the removal of DIN from the water column.


Denitrification Nitrogen assimilation Rooted macrophytes Microphytobenthos Shallow freshwater environments Pit lakes 



This study was supported with funding from Italian Ministry of University and Research, Project PRIN 428 2008, ‘Nitrogen loads in the Po river basin: biogeochemical processes, transformations and effects in lowland reaches, transitional and coastal waters’ and by Bassanetti s.r.l. (Monticelli d’Ongina, Piacenza). The authors thank Emanuele Emani and Claudio Bassanetti that supported the organisation of this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniele Nizzoli
    • 1
    Email author
  • David T. Welsh
    • 2
  • Daniele Longhi
    • 1
  • Pierluigi Viaroli
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Life SciencesUniversity of ParmaParmaItaly
  2. 2.School of Environment and Environmental Futures CentreGriffith UniversityBundallAustralia

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