Stoichiometric impact of calcium carbonate deposition on nitrogen and phosphorus supplies in three montane streams

Abstract

The absolute concentrations of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) and their relative availabilities (N:P stoichiometry) can influence numerous ecological processes. In streams, N:P stoichiometry is influenced by different hydrologic and biogeochemical processes that also affect the downstream transport of these nutrients to receiving waters. Calcium carbonate (CaCO3) deposition, a widespread geochemical process in alkaline streams and other aquatic ecosystems, can lower phosphate concentrations and, potentially, decrease P availability relative to N availability. We evaluated the effects of CaCO3 deposition on stream water stoichiometry using a 3-year dataset of stream physicochemistry and several metrics of CaCO3 deposition across three streams in the Huachuca Mountains of southern Arizona, USA. CaCO3 deposition rates varied across and within streams, with benthic coverage of travertine as high as 70 % and deposition rates up to 8.3 μg Ca2+ L−1 m−1. Redundancy analysis revealed a strong, negative correlation between stream water phosphate concentrations and CaCO3 deposition rates, a relationship that also extended to total P concentrations, and a strong, positive correlation between inorganic N concentrations and CaCO3 deposition rates. Furthermore, we found a significant positive relationship between CaCO3 deposition rates and N:P ratios. These results support the role of coprecipitation of phosphate with CaCO3 deposition in reducing P supply. They also suggest that reduced concentrations of P in the water column may reduce biological N uptake, amplifying the stoichiometric signal of CaCO3 deposition.

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank Nicole Nevarez, Megan (Brundage) Freeman, Robin Greene, Chanelle Hope, Cathy Kochert, Roy Erickson, Krist Rouypirom, Joseph Rittenhouse, Elizabeth Gaige, and all other members of Traverteam for help with field and laboratory analyses. Thank you to Sheridan Stone (US Department of Defense, Fort Huachuca) and Brooke Gebow (The Nature Conservancy, Ramsey Canyon Nature Preserve) for logistical support. This work was supported in-kind by a Department of Defense Strategic Environment Research and Development Project (SERDP, RC-1726) and with funding to JRC from Science Foundation Arizona, the Achievement Rewards for College Scholars (ARCS) Program, the California Lake Management Society, and the ASU Graduate and Professional Student Association Graduate Research Support Program and to JJE from the US National Science Foundation (DEB-0950175) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Astrobiology Program (NAI5-0018). This manuscript was much improved by feedback from Nancy Grimm, Michelle McCrackin, Daniel Childers, and three anonymous reviewers.

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Corman, J.R., Moody, E.K. & Elser, J.J. Stoichiometric impact of calcium carbonate deposition on nitrogen and phosphorus supplies in three montane streams. Biogeochemistry 126, 285–300 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10533-015-0156-6

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Keywords

  • Calcium carbonate
  • Nutrient cycling
  • Streams
  • Stoichiometry
  • Redundancy analysis