High DON bioavailability in boreal streams during a spring flood

Stepanauskas, Ramunas, Hjalmar Laudon, Niels O. G. Jørgensen

Limnol. Oceanogr., 45(6), 2000, 1298-1307 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2000.45.6.1298

ABSTRACT: Riverine inputs of nitrogen is an important factor that controls productivity of coastal marine waters. Dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) comprises most of the N in boreal rivers. During spring floods, DON flux may exceed the baseflow flux by several orders of magnitude. However, little is known about the biological availability of spring flood DON and, thus, its potential effect on coastal productivity.

We have investigated the dynamics of DON bioavailability and chemical composition during a spring flood in two streams in northern Sweden. Potential bioavailability was determined by employing bacterial regrowth bioassays with brackish medium and a coastal bacterial inoculum. In addition, concentrations of urea and amino acids and the proportion of D-isomers in total dissolved amino acids were analyzed because a high proportion of D-isomers is suggested to indicate old and refractory organic material. During the flood, potential DON bioavailability increased from 19-28% at baseflow to 55-45% during peak flow in the two streams, while DON concentration remained relatively constant. At the end of the flood, bioavailability returned to the baseflow values. Potential DON bioavailability was positively correlated with the concentration of dissolved combined amino acids and the proportion of L-enantiomers of amino acids. However, only 5-18% of DON was identified as urea and free and combined amino acids, suggesting that bacteria also utilized other DON compounds. Our results imply that a major portion of the annual export of labile nitrogen occurred during a few weeks of spring flood.

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