Quantifying the production of dissolved organic nitrogen in headwater streams using N-15 tracer additions Journal Article


Authors: Johnson, Laura T.; Tank, Jennifer L.; Hall, Robert O., Jr.; Mulholland, Patrick J.; Hamilton, Stephen K.; Valett, H. Maurice; Webster, Jackson R.; Bernot, Melody J.; McDowell, William H.; Peterson, Bruce J.; Thomas, Suzanne M.
Article Title: Quantifying the production of dissolved organic nitrogen in headwater streams using N-15 tracer additions
Abstract: Most nitrogen (N) assimilation in lake and marine ecosystems is often subsequently released via autochthonous dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) production, but autochthonous DON production has yet to be quantified in flowing waters. We measured in-stream DON production following 24 h N-15-nitrate (NO3-) tracer additions in 36 headwater streams, a subset of sites from the second Lotic Intersite Nitrogen eXperiment. Streams were located in five North American ecoregions and drained basins dominated by native vegetation, agriculture, or urban land use. Using a two-compartment model, we could quantify DON production in 15 streams as a function of (DON)-N-15 derived from N-15 tracer in biomass compartments. The streams with detectable DON production had higher % modified land use (agriculture + urban) in their basins than did streams with undetectable DON production. Median DON production represented 8% of total NO3- uptake when we used N biomass estimates based on N assimilated over 1 d (measured directly from the N-15 additions). Median DON production was 17% of total NO3- uptake when we used N assimilated over 42 d (extrapolated from previous N-15 tracer studies). Variation in DON production was positively correlated with ecosystem respiration, indicating that stream heterotrophy may influence DON production. In-stream DON production was similar in magnitude to stream denitrification and nitrification, indicating that the production of autochthonous DON can represent a substantial transformation of stream N. Our results confirm that headwater streams can quickly convert inorganic N into organic forms, although the ultimate fate of DON remains unclear.
Keywords: ECOSYSTEMS; marine; CARBON; NITRATE; AMMONIA DIFFUSION METHOD; FOREST STREAM; LAND-USE; TRANSFORMATION; WATERSHEDS; EXPORT
Journal Title: Limnology and Oceanography
Volume: 58
Issue: 4
ISSN: 0024-3590
Publisher: Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography  
Publication Place: WACO; 5400 BOSQUE BLVD, STE 680, WACO, TX 76710-4446 USA
Date Published: 2013
Start Page: 1271
End Page: 1285
DOI/URL:
Notes: PT: J; TC: 0; UT: WOS:000322514600011