Occurrence and ecological implications of pyrophosphate in estuaries

Sundareshwar, P. V., J. T. Morris, P. J. Pellechia, H. J. Cohen, D. E. Porter, B. C. Jones

Limnol. Oceanogr., 46(6), 2001, 1570-1577 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2001.46.6.1570

ABSTRACT: Loading of bioavailable phosphorus, traditionally measured as soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP), contributes to the eutrophication of aquatic ecosystems. However, polyphosphates are also bioavailable but escape detection by the standard method used for measuring SRP. 31P nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometric analysis of sediment extracts and enzymatic assay of surface waters reveal heretofore unreported presence of pyrophosphate (Ppi) in coastal wetlands. We show that the accumulation of Ppi (the smallest chemical form of polyphosphate) in coastal wetlands is related to human impact and can occur in quantities that exceed that of SRP. We further demonstrate that Ppi is readily utilized by microbes in coastal wetland sediments in the presence of nitrogen and carbon and can serve as a reservoir of orthophosphate. Thus, Ppi accumulation in estuaries will subsidize the in situ biogeochemical phosphorus cycle. This has important ecological implications for trophic responses and estuarine productivity.

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