The limiting nutrient for freshwater phytoplankton productivity can vary within and between geographic regions. Understanding how local (i.e., lake and catchment) and regional (i.e., multiple catchment) factors shift the relative importance of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) limitation presents a key research challenge for freshwater ecosystems and may enhance our understanding of how lakes could be managed to control eutrophication. Here, we used in situ microcosm incubations with factorial N and P amendments to determine the type of limitation in 16 lakes across the northeastern United States. Study lakes had similar climate but varied in geography, trophic status, and chemistry. Limitation by both N and P was most common (colimitation n = 5 and serial limitation n = 3); however, we also observed single nutrient N (n = 3) and P limitation (n = 4). The type of limitation was related to background phytoplankton biomass, longitude, and land use. The magnitude of response to combined nutrient enrichment was negatively related to background P concentrations. This multi-lake experiment suggests that both N and P often play a role in regulating productivity and that local and regional characteristics affect nutrient limitation patterns.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Aquatic Science
- Water Science and Technology