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Measurements of phosphorus uptake by macrophytes and epiphytes from the LaPlatte River (VT) using 32P in stream microcosms

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1. Phosphorus (P) uptake by macrophytes and epiphytes from the LaPlatte River (VT) was examined in the laboratory by adding 32PO4‐P to recirculating stream microcosms.

2. Water, plugs of sediment and plants were removed from the river and placed into the microcosms. 32PO4‐P was then added either to the water or the sediment, and its incorporation into plants and epiphytes was monitored over 3 days. Uptake was examined at both ambient (5 μg L–1) and increased (50 μg L–1) soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP) concentrations. A computer program was developed to fit curves to the radiotracer data and calculate rate constants for the simultaneous transfer of 32P among compartments.

3. Both macrophytes and epiphytes removed P from the water, but epiphyte uptake of P was more rapid. Phosphate enrichment stimulated P uptake by both macrophytes and epiphytes. Macrophytes also obtained P from the sediment. The relative contribution of P to macrophytes from the water vs. that from the sediment appeared to vary with SRP in the overlying water. Accurate estimates of rates of P uptake from sediments by macrophytes were difficult to obtain however, due to very low and highly variable unit rate constants for P uptake and uncertainty about the magnitude of the phosphate pool available for uptake.

4. SRP concentrations were greater in the overlying water than in the sediment pore water of stream microcosms in the present study. Numerous reports in the literature have suggested that this condition favours uptake by macrophyte stems and leaves rather than by roots.

5. Phosphate uptake from the water by macrophytes in shallow streams may be more common than for macrophytes in lakes.

Document Type: Original Article


Affiliations: School of Natural Resources, University of Vermont, Bington, VT 05405, U.S.A.

Publication date: March 1, 1998


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