Redfield ratios in inland waters: higher biological control of C:N:P ratios in tropical semi-arid high water residence time lakes

Ng H. They, André M. Amado, James B. Cotner

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40 Scopus citations


The canonical Redfield C:N:P ratio for algal biomass is often not achieved in inland waters due to higher C and N content and more variability when compared to the oceans. This has been attributed to much lower residence times and higher contributions of the watershed to the total organic matter pool of continental ecosystems. In this study we examined the effect of water residence times in low latitude lakes (in a gradient from humid to a semi-arid region) on seston elemental ratios in different size fractions. We used lake water specific conductivity as a proxy for residence time in a region of Eastern Brazil where there is a strong precipitation gradient. The C:P ratios decreased in the seston and bacterial size-fractions and increased in the dissolved fraction with increasing water retention time, suggesting uptake of N and P from the dissolved pool. Bacterial abundance, production and respiration increased in response to increased residence time and intracellular nutrient availability in agreement with the growth rate hypothesis. Our results reinforce the role of microorganisms in shaping the chemical environment in aquatic systems particularly at long water residence times and highlights the importance of this factor in influencing ecological stoichiometry in all aquatic ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1505
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Issue numberAUG
StatePublished - Aug 8 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank B. Wanderley, V. Ferreira, C. Godwin and A. Little for field and laboratory support.This work was partially supported by a grant to JC from NSF (IOS No. 1257571) and by a grant to AA from CAPES (PVE – No. 88881.030384/2013-01)

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 They, Amado and Cotner.


  • Bacteria
  • Ecological stoichiometry
  • Lakes
  • Metabolism
  • Nutrients
  • Semi-arid
  • Tropical
  • Water residence time


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