MEPS 191:1-18 (1999)  -  doi:10.3354/meps191001

Occurrence and bacterial cycling of dissolved nitrogen in the Gulf of Riga, the Baltic Sea

Niels O. G. Jørgensen1,*, Lars J. Tranvik2,**, Gry Mine Berg3,***

1Department of Ecology, Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, Thorvaldsensvej 40, 1871 Frederiksberg C, Denmark
2Department of Ecology, Limnology, Lund University, 223 62 Lund, Sweden
3Horn Point Laboratory, University of Maryland, Center for Environmental Science, Cambridge, Maryland 21613, USA
*Corresponding author. E-mail:
Present addresses:
**Department of Limnology, Evolutionary Biology Centre, Uppsala University, 752 36 Uppsala, Sweden
***Institut für Meereskunde an der Universität Kiel, Düsternbrooker Weg 20, 24105 Kiel, Germany

ABSTRACT: Occurrence, composition and biolability of total dissolved nitrogen (TDN, including dissolved inorganic and organic N ([DIN and DON]) were examined in May and July 1996 in the northern (Köiguste transect) and southern part (Saulkrasti transect) of the Gulf of Riga. In the Saulkrasti transect, the Daugava River was a major source of TDN as indicated by concentrations of up to 60 µM TDN in the river plume, compared to about 20 µM TDN in the open gulf. DON made up 80 to 90% of the TDN, but on May 16 a nitrate-rich river plume lowered the proportion of DON to 65%. Riverine DIN and DON stimulated the biological activity along the transect in May, but apparently not in July. In the Köiguste transect, concentrations of TDN were 0.5-fold lower than at Saulkrasti. In May, input of terrestrial nutrients to the inner part of the transect probably increased the biological production. In both transects, the labile DON fraction, defined as bacterial DON degradation over a week, was estimated at 4 to 29%, with an average of 13%. Dissolved combined amino acids (DCAA) made up 10 to 30% of the DON. A high DON lability coincided with a large proportion of DCAA, relative to TDN, or a high algal biomass. The l/d ratio of especially dissolved combined glutamic acid appeared to be a potential indicator of DON lability. DCAA, as well as dissolved free amino acids (DFAA), were dominant nutrient sources to the bacteria, on average sustaining 77% (range 8 to 136%) of the bacterial N demand. In addition to amino acids, the bacteria incorporated or released DIN and urea. The effect of solar radiation on DON biolability was tested, but no consistent evidence for a light effect on transformation or bacterial utilization of recalcitrant DON was found. Our results show that there is an active microbial cycling of DON in the gulf, driven in part by input of N from the Daugava River. In summer, availability of assimilable N appears to limit the microbial activity as indicated by an estimated C/N ratio of 43 of labile DOM, as compared to a ratio of 4 in May. The microbial N dynamics in the Gulf of Riga are comparable to low-eutrophic estuaries and do not indicate direct eutrophication effects.


KEY WORDS: Gulf of Riga · Total dissolved nitrogen · DON · DIN · DON lability · Amino acids · l/d ratio · Urea · UV radiation


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