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Periphyton responses to nitrogen decline and warming in eutrophic shallow lake mesocosms

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Periphyton is a key primary producer in shallow lakes, sensitive to global warming and changes in nutrient balances. Reduced nitrogen availability due to accelerated denitrification at higher temperatures or in response to reduced N loadings aimed to reduce the eutrophication may affect periphyton biomass and composition, to compensate for the low N availability (e.g. promoting N2-fixing). We analysed periphyton responses to N decline in 12 eutrophic shallow lake mesocosms during one year of low N compared to high N, under three temperature scenarios: ambient, A2 IPCC scenario and A2 increased by 50%. We used two submerged macrophytes (Potamogeton crispus and Elodea canadensis) and artificial imitations of these as substrates for periphyton growth. Nitrogen decline increased periphyton biomass and induced compositional changes irrespective of season, plant type, and temperature. Periphyton biomass was negatively associated to phytoplankton and positively to plant complexity. Warmer scenarios negatively affected periphyton exclusively at high N loadings. Low N conditions were associated with lower periphyton taxonomic richness, lower N2-fixing cyanobacteria biovolume and increased biovolume of large-sized chlorophytes and non-N2-fixing cyanobacteria. Our results suggest that low N conditions promoted periphyton due to a more efficient use of nutrients and improved light conditions resulting from lower phytoplankton biomass and contrasting effects of temperature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3889-3904
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG.

    Research areas

  • Benthic algae, Diazotrophic cyanobacteria, Oligotrophication, Phytoplankton, Plant morphology

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