Lake and watershed characteristics rather than climate influence nutrient limitation in shallow lakes

S. Kosten, V.M. Huszar, N. Mazzeo, M. Scheffer, L.S.L. Sternberg, E. Jeppesen

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Both nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) can limit primary production in shallow lakes, but it is still debated how the importance of N and P varies in time and space. We sampled 83 shallow lakes along a latitudinal gradient (5°–55° S) in South America and assessed the potential nutrient limitation using different methods including nutrient ratios in sediment, water, and seston, dissolved nutrient concentrations, and occurrence of N-fixing cyanobacteria. We found that local characteristics such as soil type and associated land use in the catchment, hydrology, and also the presence of abundant submerged macrophyte growth influenced N and P limitation. We found neither a consistent variation in nutrient limitation nor indications for a steady change in denitrification along the latitudinal gradient. Contrary to findings in other regions, we did not find a relationship between the occurrence of (N-fixing and non-N-fixing) cyanobacteria and the TN:TP ratio. We found N-fixing cyanobacteria (those with heterocysts) exclusively in lakes with dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) concentrations of
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1791-1804
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • water quality
  • nutrients
  • lakes
  • nitrogen
  • phosphorus
  • cyanobacteria
  • eutrophication
  • rehabilitation
  • climate
  • south america
  • primary production
  • phytoplankton community structure
  • fresh-water
  • meteoric precipitation
  • nitrogen-retention
  • subtropical lakes
  • trophic state
  • danish lakes
  • n-p
  • denitrification

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