Ecosystem metabolism controls nitrogen uptake in streams in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Robert O. Hall, Jennifer L. Tank

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

284 Scopus citations


Streams and rivers regulate nitrogen transport (N) to downstream ecosystems. Rates of N uptake can be high in streams, but controls on the variation in uptake rates of N among streams are not known. We measured ammonium (NH4+) and nitrate (NO3-) uptake velocities (Vf) and compared these with whole-reach estimates of gross primary production (GPP) and community respiration (CR) in 11 low-nitrogen streams in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. We predicted that increased metabolism would positively relate to higher N demand because of stoichiometric N requirements associated with carbon fixation. Rates of GPP and CR explained 82% of variation in NH4+ Vf. Nitrate Vf was controlled by GPP, not CR, with GPP explaining 75% of variation in NO3- Vf. Nitrate concentrations did not increase downstream during NH4+ addition in all streams, including streams with zero NO3- uptake, suggesting low nitrification rates relative to NH4+ uptake. Using a stoichiometric model, we show that areal N uptake estimated from microbial and algal production was similar to measured areal N uptake. High primary production could be a prerequisite for streams exhibiting high NO3- uptake rates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1120-1128
Number of pages9
JournalLimnology and Oceanography
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2003


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