Factors affecting ammonium uptake in streams - An inter-biome perspective

Jackson R. Webster, Patrick J. Mulholland, Jennifer L. Tank, H. Maurice Valett, Walter K. Dodds, Bruce J. Peterson, William B. Bowden, Clifford N. Dahm, Stuart Findlay, Stanley V. Gregory, Nancy B. Grimm, Stephen K. Hamilton, Sherri L. Johnson, Eugènia Martí, William H. McDowell, Judy L. Meyer, Donna D. Morrall, Steven A. Thomas, Wilfred M. Wollheim

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

242 Scopus citations


1. The Lotic Intersite Nitrogen eXperiment (LINX) was a coordinated study of the relationships between North American biomes and factors governing ammonium uptake in streams. Our objective was to relate inter-biome variability of ammonium uptake to physical, chemical and biological processes. 2. Data were collected from 11 streams ranging from arctic to tropical and from desert to rainforest. Measurements at each site included physical, hydraulic and chemical characteristics, biological parameters, whole-stream metabolism and ammonium uptake. Ammonium uptake was measured by injection of 15N-ammonium and downstream measurements of 15N-ammonium concentration. 3. We found no general, statistically significant relationships that explained the variability in ammonium uptake among sites. However, this approach does not account for the multiple mechanisms of ammonium uptake in streams. When we estimated biological demand for inorganic nitrogen based on our measurements of in-stream metabolism, we found good correspondence between calculated nitrogen demand and measured assimilative nitrogen uptake. 4. Nitrogen uptake varied little among sites, reflecting metabolic compensation in streams in a variety of distinctly different biomes (autotrophic production is high where allochthonous inputs are relatively low and vice versa). 5. Both autotrophic and heterotrophic metabolism require nitrogen and these biotic processes dominate inorganic nitrogen retention in streams. Factors that affect the relative balance of autotrophic and heterotrophic metabolism indirectly control inorganic nitrogen uptake.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1329-1352
Number of pages24
JournalFreshwater Biology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Biome
  • Metabolism
  • Nitrogen
  • Stable isotope
  • Transient storage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science


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