Interactive effects of N:P ratios and light on nitrogen‐fixer abundance

Published on Mar 1, 2010in Oikos3.468
· DOI :10.1111/j.1600-0706.2009.17924.x
Paula de Tezanos Pinto9
Estimated H-index: 9
(Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales),
Elena Litchman38
Estimated H-index: 38
(Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales)
Nitrogen-fixers can contribute significant amounts of nitrogen (N) and impact ecosystem functioning in diverse aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. What determines N-fixer abundance still remains poorly understood. Here we experimentally investigate major environmental controls on the abundance of N-fixers: nitrogen to phosphorus (N:P) ratio and light. We grew a N-fixer, cyanobacterium Anabaena flos-aquae, in a multispecies community of freshwater phytoplankton in replicated factorial design treatments with two N:P ratios and two light levels. We show that low N:P ratios promote the dominance of the N-fixer in the community, but only under high light. Under low light, N:P ratio did not have a significant effect on the abundance of the N-fixer. N fixation occurred at low N:P only and increased with increasing light. In contrast, the density of non N-fixing cyanobacteria did not depend on N:P ratios. Green algae dominated under high N:P and high light only, exhibiting the opposite pattern of dominance to N-fixers. These results are consistent with patterns observed in nature and help explain the N-fixer distribution along the environmental gradients of nutrients and light.
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