Gradients of Anthropogenic Nutrient Enrichment Alter N Composition and DOM Stoichiometry in Freshwater Ecosystems

TitleGradients of Anthropogenic Nutrient Enrichment Alter N Composition and DOM Stoichiometry in Freshwater Ecosystems
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsWymore, AS, Johnes, PJ, Bernal, S, Brookshire, ENJack, Fazekas, HM, Helton, AM, Argerich, A, Barnes, RT, Coble, AA, Dodds, WK, Haq, S, Johnson, SL, Jones, JB, Kaushal, SS, Kortelainen, P, López-Lloreda, C, Rodríguez-Cardona, BM, Spencer, RGM, Sullivan, PL, Yates, CA, McDowell, WH
JournalGlobal Biogeochemical Cycles
Date Published2021///
ISBN Number1944-9224
Keywordsdissolved organic carbon, Dissolved organic matter, dissolved organic nitrogen, freshwater ecosystems, HBR-DataOnly, itrogen cycle, LTER-HBR, stoichiometry, total dissolved nitrogen

A comprehensive cross-biome assessment of major nitrogen (N) species that includes dissolved organic N (DON) is central to understanding interactions between inorganic nutrients and organic matter in running waters. Here, we synthesize stream water N chemistry across biomes and find that the composition of the dissolved N pool shifts from highly heterogeneous to primarily comprised of inorganic N, in tandem with dissolved organic matter (DOM) becoming more N-rich, in response to nutrient enrichment from human disturbances. We identify two critical thresholds of total dissolved N (TDN) concentrations where the proportions of organic and inorganic N shift. With low TDN concentrations (0–1.3 mg/L N), the dominant form of N is highly variable, and DON ranges from 0% to 100% of TDN. At TDN concentrations above 2.8 mg/L, inorganic N dominates the N pool and DON rarely exceeds 25% of TDN. This transition to inorganic N dominance coincides with a shift in the stoichiometry of the DOM pool, where DOM becomes progressively enriched in N and DON concentrations are less tightly associated with concentrations of dissolved organic carbon (DOC). This shift in DOM stoichiometry (defined as DOC:DON ratios) suggests that fundamental changes in the biogeochemical cycles of C and N in freshwater ecosystems are occurring across the globe as human activity alters inorganic N and DOM sources and availability. Alterations to DOM stoichiometry are likely to have important implications for both the fate of DOM and its role as a source of N as it is transported downstream to the coastal ocean.