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Transition from P- to N-limited phytoplankton growth in an artificial lake on flooded cutaway peatland in Ireland

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Question: Which nutrient limits primary production in a lake created by flooding industrial cutaway peatland?

Location: Clongawny Lake (53°10′ N, 07°53′ W), County Offaly, Ireland

Methods: Nutrient concentrations in lake water and the dynamics of phytoplankton populations were monitored over a 38-month period. The ratio of dissolved inorganic nitrogen to total phosphorus (DIN:TP) and nutrient enrichment bio-assays were used to investigate temporal changes in nutrient limitation.

Results: Primary production in the new lake was phytoplankton-driven due to the scarcity of recolonizing macrophytes. Phytoplankton growth was initially phosphorus-limited. The runoff of phosphate fertilizer from an adjacent coniferous forestry plantation raised the TP concentration of lake water 5.5-fold. Consequently, the biovolume of phytoplankton increased 30-fold, and chlorophyll-a concentrations increased eightfold, reaching hyper-eutrophic levels. A concurrent depletion of nitrogen in lake water reduced the DIN:TP ratio from 17.8 to 0.6, and phytoplankton growth rapidly became nitrogen-limited. Phytoplankton composition shifted from dinoflagellates to minute, unicellular chlorophytes, with a coincident decline in species diversity. Cyanobacteria did not proliferate, most likely due to the acidic nature of the lake.

Conclusions: Results illustrated the vulnerability of newly created cutaway peatland lakes to developing severe phytoplankton blooms and coincident secondary nitrogen limitation in the presence of moderate external phosphorus inputs.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2006-11-01

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