Temperature affects the ratio of ethylene produced to N2-fixed more than immediate release of fixed N in streams

Lisa A. Kunza, Robert O. Hall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Nitrogen fixation can be a substantial flux of new biologically available nitrogen (N) into some aquatic ecosystems. The most commonly used method for measuring N2-fixation is the acetylene reduction method, which measures nitrogenase activity. This method requires the assumption of a theoretical ratio of ethylene produced to N2-fixed unless the estimates are calibrated using 15N2 as a tracer. We measured N2-fixation using both the acetylene reduction method and 15N2 uptake methods to examine the ratio of ethylene produced to N2-fixed (C2H4:N2), estimate controls on variation in this ratio, and quantify the immediate release of N2-fixed as dissolved N. We estimated N2-fixation for benthic biofilms and separated Nostoc in four streams in Wyoming, Little Laramie River, Ditch Creek, Spread Creek, and Polecat Creek. Estimates of the C2H4:N2 ratio for any one stream and date ranged from 1.6 to 7.1 with a group-level mean of 3.8. Immediate release of N2-fixed as dissolved organic and inorganic N was < 1% of N2-fixation. Ethylene production increased 1.8 times faster than N2-fixation as temperature increased showing strong control of temperature in the C2H4:N2 ratio. Temperature contributed substantially to the variability in ratios of ethylene produced to N2-fixed. Slight differences in the C2H4:N2 ratio can considerably alter N2-fixation estimates particularly in N2-fixation dominated stream biofilms, thus when calibrating using a range of temperatures may be essential.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-282
Number of pages14
JournalBiogeochemistry
Volume166
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2023

Keywords

  • Acetylene reduction
  • Biofilms
  • Calibration
  • Conversion factor
  • N uptake
  • Nitrogen fixation
  • Nostoc
  • Streams

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