Effects of high-molecular-weight dissolved organic matter on nitrogen dynamics in the Mississippi River plume

Wayne S. Gardner, Ronald Benner, Rainer M.W. Amon, James B. Cotner, Joann F. Cavaletto, Jeffrey R. Johnson

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The dynamics of N and its interacttions with labile dissolved organic C (DOC), bacteria, and phytoplankton were studied to determine potential effects of dissolved organic mattter (DOM) and light on N dynamics in surface waters of the Mississippi River (USA) plume in the Gulf of Mexico. Bacterial uptake of added labeled N compounds (15NH4+ or 15N-labeled dissolved free amino acids, DFAA) was stimulated more by high-molecular- weight (HMW, >1 kDA) DOM than by low-molecular-weight (LMW, <1 kDa) DOM. An index that inversely indicated the presence of labile DOC was defined as the fraction of assimilated Amino acid-15N that was Recovered as 15N-Ammonium (ANRA), following the additions of high-levels (4 μM) of 15N-DFAA. ANRA ratio were high in the absence of other available carbon sources because heterotrophic bacteria were forced to use the added amino acids as a carbon source for respiration rather than as a nutrient source for biomass formation. In dynamic light/dark experiments, conducted with in situ populations of organisms, uptake rates of added 15NH4+ were significantly enhanced both by the presence of light and by the addition of HMW DOM. Uptake rates of added 15N-labeled DFAA were increased by the addittion of HMW DOM but not by light. ANRA ratios were consistently lower in the presence of added HMW DOM than in controls. Added HMW DOM thus appeared to stimulate the incorporation of assimilated DFAA into bacterial biomass. Bacterial growth rates were relatively high in both light and dark bottles with DFAA additions and in light bottles with HMW DOM plus NH4+ additions, but they remained comparatively low in dark bottles with added NH4+. These results are consistent with the idea that bacterial N dynamics in these euphotic waters may be tightly coupled to phosynthetic activities over short time scales.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)287-297
Number of pages11
JournalMarine Ecology Progress Series
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Mar 28 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • Ammonium
  • Bacteria
  • Dissolved organic carbon
  • Nitrogen cycling
  • Phytoplankton


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