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Recent Synchronous Declines in DIN:TP in Swedish Lakes
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences.
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences. (Arcum)
2018 (English)In: Global Biogeochemical Cycles, ISSN 0886-6236, E-ISSN 1944-9224, Vol. 32, no 2, p. 208-225Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Declining atmospheric nitrogen (N) deposition in northern Europe and parts of North America, coupled with ongoing changes in climate, has the potential to alter the nutrient limitation status of freshwater ecosystems. In this study we compared time series data of atmospheric N deposition, air temperature, and precipitation with corresponding estimates of dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN), total phosphorus (TP), DIN: TP, and total organic carbon from 78 headwater streams and 95 nutrient-poor lakes in Sweden from 1998 to 2013 to assess trends in, and potential drivers of, lake N:P ratios. We found that trends in nutrients were variable at the scale of individual lakes but were highly synchronous at the regional scale, suggesting underlying control by broad-scale environmental drivers mediated by site-specific characteristics. Widespread declines in lake DIN throughout Sweden were correlated with declines in atmospheric N deposition, particularly in northern areas. TP did not have strong directional trends, but interannual variability was synchronous at regional scales, implying that broad-scale climate drivers were affecting these trends. Overall, we observed a significant decline in DIN:TP throughout Sweden over the monitoring period. At the beginning of the study period, 32% of lakes were N limited and 45% colimited by N and P. Proportions increased to 63% of lakes N limited and 20% colimited by N and P at the end of the study period. These results suggest that N limitation is likely to become more widespread in subarctic and boreal areas of Europe in the future if recent trends continue. Plain Language Summary This article examines the way in which changes in the amount of nitrogen from the atmosphere being delivered to lakes (as a result of fossil fuel combustion) are interacting with global climate change to affect nutrient availability in Swedish lakes. Nitrogen can act as fertilizer in lakes, supporting increased growth of algae and aquatic plants. The amount of nitrogen relative to other important elements such as phosphorus can help to determine which groups of plants and algae dominate lake ecosystems, as well as how much living biomass lakes can sustain. We find that declines in atmospheric deposition of nitrogen, which have resulted from the adoption of policies controlling emissions from fossil fuel combustion, have caused declines in nitrogen concentrations in lakes throughout Sweden. This has changed the balance of nitrogen and phosphorus, which may result in changes to the structure of lake biological communities. At the same time, variability in climate also has subtle but widespread affects on lake nutrient concentrations, suggesting that the availability of nutrients in lakes at northern latitudes is likely to change in the future as the climate warms.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
American Geophysical Union (AGU), 2018. Vol. 32, no 2, p. 208-225
National Category
Ecology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-146166DOI: 10.1002/2017GB005722ISI: 000426773600004OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-146166DiVA, id: diva2:1201781
Available from: 2018-04-26 Created: 2018-04-26 Last updated: 2018-08-20Bibliographically approved

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Isles, Peter D. F.Bergström, Ann-Kristin

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