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The importance of nitrogen in Pyramid Lake (Nevada, USA), a saline, desert lake

The importance of nitrogen in Pyramid Lake (Nevada, USA), a saline, desert lake

Hydrobiologia 267(1-3): 179-189

The increase in human development in the downstream portion of the Pyramid Lake drainage basin has resulted in increased nutrient loading to the lake. Since this is a deep, terminal lake, concern over nutrient build up and change in trophic status exists. On the basis of lake chemistry which shows consistently high concentrations of total reactive-P (mean = 55 mu-g P l-1) relative to dissolved inorganic-N (DIN) (mean = 15 mu-g N l-1), it has been hypothesized that Pyramid is N-limited. However, no systematic study of nutrient limitation had been undertaken. Nutrient enrichment bioassays conducted throughout an entire year clearly showed that additions of DIN resulted in a 350-600% stimulation of chlorophyll production. Phosphate, when added singly or in combination with DIN, had no effect. This positive response to N-addition was significant at all times of the year except, (1) immediately after complete lake mixing in February when a large pool of hypolimnetic nitrate was injected into the euphotic zone, and (2) during a fall bloom of the nitrogen fixing species Nodularia spumigena. The positive response to N-addition in the bioassay experiments was strong between March and November. However, the seston exhibited only a gradual depletion of nitrogen relative to carbon over this same period. PN:PC ratios suggested no N-deficiency in phytoplankton biomass in February, March and April, moderate N-deficiency in May, June and July and, severe N-deficiency from August until winter turnover. The appearance of nitrogen fixing blue-green algae in September supports the hypothesis of N-limitation in the summer-autumn. In evaluating the nutrient status of a lake, the concepts of nutrient stimulation versus nutrient deficiency versus nutrient limitation must clearly be defined.

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Accession: 009587175

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DOI: 10.1007/bf00018800

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