• Pelagic nitrogen cycle in an arctic lake

      Whalen, Stephen Charles (1986-05)
      A mass balance for nitrogen was developed for the water column of Toolik Lake and the isotope tracers 15N and 14C were used to examine the phytoplankton ecology with respect to dissolved in organic nitrogen (ammonium and nitrate). The nutrient budget showed an oligotrophic ecosystem with important flux terms few and small in magnitude. Nitrogen input was primarily from inflowing rivers and was dominated by the dissolved organic fraction. Ammonium release from sediment provided the only other major source of nitrogen to the lake water. Toolik acted as a nitrogen sink, trapping 18% of the annual input. Retention was almost exclusively (98%) as dissolved organic nitrogen. Tracer experiments suggested chronic nitrogen deficiency in the phytoplankton, but indigenous populations were well-adapted for utilizing characteristically low levels of nutrient. Phytoplankton showed a high affinity for both nitrate and ammonium as well as a lack of discrimination between the two forms of inorganic nutrient. The ambient concentration was the most important factor regulating uptake, with light and temperature of secondary importance. More than 66% of the dissolved in organic nitrogen supporting phytoplankton productivity was derived from local recycling, with the remainder from sediment efflux and riverine input. Dissolved organic nitrogen from inflowing waters probably provided an additional, important source of nutrient for the phytoplankton.