Inorganic and organic nitrogen cycling in the Southern California Bight

D. A. Bronk, Bettie Ward

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31 Scopus citations


On the basis of mass balance calculations performed for nitrogen (N) uptake experiments in the Southern California Bight (SCB), it has been suggested that a significant portion of dissolved inorganic N (DIN) uptake results in the production of dissolved organic N (DON). To investigate this process, the fate of ammonium (NH4+) and nitrate (NO3 -) uptake was quantified within the euphotic zone at three coastal stations in the SCB using 15N tracer techniques. Several trends in the fate of DIN and the production of DON were observed. First, production of particulate N (PN), from both NH4+ and NO3 -, was quantitatively more important in near surface waters, while DON release dominated within the nitracline. Second, the percentage of gross N uptake released as DON was generally higher when NO3-, rather than NH4+, was the substrate. Third, the percentage of N released as DON was higher at night, relative to the day. Fourth, rates of DON release were significantly correlated to NH4+ regeneration, suggesting that similar mechanisms are responsible for both processes - presumably grazing. The results of this study indicate that the DON pool is a sink for DIN uptake on the time scale of hours. One implication of this finding is that new production estimates based on 15NO 3- uptake rates will likely underestimate particle flux out of the surface layer because the rate of NO3- uptake is underestimated due to loss of DO15N during the incubation. On time scales of months to years, however, the N that is taken up as NO 3- and released as DON will likely contribute to export flux via incorporation of the dissolved phase during seasonal mixing into sinking particles or transport. The export of DON on these time scales argues for the use of gross uptake rates to calculate f-ratios.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2285-2300
Number of pages16
JournalDeep-Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science


  • Bacteria
  • DON
  • Nitrogen
  • Phytoplankton
  • Uptake


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