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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 169:29-41 (1998)  -  doi:10.3354/meps169029

Nitrogen isotope fractionation during nitrate, ammonium and urea uptake by marine diatoms and coccolithophores under various conditions of N availability

Nathalie A. Waser1,*, Kedong Yin1, Zhiming Yu2, Kuninao Tada3, Paul J. Harrison1, David H. Turpin4, Stephen E. Calvert1

1Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z4, Canada
2Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Qingdao, Shandong 266071, China
3Department of Bioresource Science, Faculty of Agriculture, Miki, Kagawa 761-07, Japan
4Department of Biology, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario K7L 3N6, Canada

ABSTRACT: Stable isotopes of N provide a new approach to the study of algal production in the ocean, yet knowledge of the isotope fractionation (ε) in various oceanic regimes is lacking. Here we report large and rapid changes in isotope composition (δ15N) of 2 coastal diatoms and 2 clones (open and coastal) of a coccolithophore grown in the simultaneous presence of nitrate, ammonium and urea under varying conditions of N availability (i.e. N-sufficiency and N-starvation followed by N-resupply) and hence different physiological states. During N-sufficiency, the δ15N of particulate organic N (PON) was well reproduced, using a model derived from Rayleigh distillation theory, with constant ε similar to that for growth on each individual N source. However, following N-resupply, the variations in δ15NPON could be well explained only in the case of the open ocean Emiliania huxleyi, with ε similar to N-sufficient conditions. It was concluded that the mechanism of isotope fractionation changed rapidly with N availability for the 3 coastal clones. However, in the case of E. huxleyi isolated from the Subarctic Pacific Ocean, no evidence of a change in mechanism was found, suggesting that perhaps open ocean species can quickly recover from N-depleted conditions.

KEY WORDS: Isotope fractionation · 15N/14N · Nitrogen uptake · Diatoms · Coccolithophores · Nitrate · Ammonium · Urea

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