Date of Award:


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Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Watershed Sciences


Chris Luecke


In lakes, fish and zooplankton can be both sources and sinks of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) through the consumption of organic N and P, and subsequent excretion of bioavailable inorganic forms. These source/sink dynamics, known as consumer-driven nutrient recycling (CNR), may, in turn, control the availability of potentially limiting nutrients for algal primary production. In this dissertation I investigate the importance and controls of CNR as a source of inorganic N and P for primary production (Chapter 2). I then examine zooplankton CNR as a mechanism for increasing nutrient mean resident time (MRT) in the mixed layer of lakes (Chapter 3). Finally, I assess whether zooplankton communities dominated by different taxa can affect N versus P deficient conditions for phytoplankton production through differential N and P recycling rates (Chapter 4). Direct excretion of N and P by fish communities was modest in arctic lakes, and accounted for < 4 % of the N and P required for primary production. Recycling of N and P by zooplankton communities was relatively high, and the fraction of algal N and P demand supplied by zooplankton CNR ranged from 4 - 90% for N and 7 - 107% for P. MRT of 15N, measured in the mixed layer of an arctic lake, was ~16 days, compared to 14 days predicted by a ecosystem model simulation with zooplankton N recycling and 8 days in a model simulation where zooplankton N recycling was absent. The 75% increase in N MRT between model simulations with and without zooplankton recycling suggests that zooplankton N recycling is an important mechanism for retaining N in lake ecosystems. I observed relatively high negative correlations between precipitation and phytoplankton N (r = -0.33) and P (r = -0.30) deficiencies. I also observed a significant positive correlation (r = 0.42, p = 0.03) between zooplankton communities with higher copepod biomass, relative to cladoceran biomass, and phytoplankton N-deficient conditions. These results suggest that when precipitation is high N and P deficiency is low in the phytoplankton. When precipitation is low, however, zooplankton communities composed primarily of copepods contribute to N-deficient conditions for phytoplankton production.



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