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Research article2018Peer reviewedOpen access

Contrasting plankton stoichiometry and nutrient regeneration in northern arctic and boreal lakes

Bergstrom, Ann-Kristin; Karlsson, Jan; Karlsson, Daniel; Vrede, Tobias


Contrasting carbon: nitrogen: phosphorus (C: N: P) stoichiometry between phytoplankton and zooplankton affect consumer growth and phytoplankton nutrient limitation via nutrient recycling by zooplankton. However, no study has assessed how regional differences in terrestrial loadings of organic matter affect plankton N: P stoichiometry and recycling in systems with low N deposition and N-limited phytoplankton. We address this question by using data from 14 unproductive headwater arctic and boreal lakes. We found that boreal lakes had higher lake water-and seston C, N and P concentrations than arctic lakes, whereas seston C: N, C: P and N: P ratios did not differ among regions. Boreal zooplankton were also richer in N and P relative to C, with lower somatic N: P ratios, compared to arctic lakes. Consequently, the estimated N: P imbalances between seston and zooplankton were negative in arctic lakes, indicating zooplankton feeding on phytoplankton of suboptimal N content, resulting in low consumer driven N: P recycling (medians arctic sub-mid and high altitude lakes: 11 and 13). In boreal lakes, estimated N: P imbalance did not differ from zero, with a seston N: P stoichiometry matching the N: P requirements of zooplankton, which resulted in higher consumer driven N: P recycling (median 18). Our results imply that regional climate induced catchment differences, through enhanced terrestrial nutrient inputs, affect plankton stoichiometry by raising consumer N: P recycling ratio and changing zooplankton from being mainly N-(arctic) to NP co-limited (boreal). Browning of lakes, in regions with low N deposition, may therefore promote large-scale regional changes in plankton nutrient limitation with potential feedbacks on pelagic food webs.


Carbon; Nitrogen; Nutrient limitation; Phosphorus; Phytoplankton; Zooplankton

Published in

Aquatic Sciences - Research Across Boundaries
2018, Volume: 80, number: 2, article number: 24

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Environmental Sciences

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