Differentiating the degradation dynamics of algal and terrestrial carbon within complex natural dissolved organic carbon in temperate lakes

Authors

  • François Guillemette,

    Corresponding author
    • Groupe de Recherche Interuniversitaire en Limnologie, Département des Sciences Biologiques, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada
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  • S. Leigh McCallister,

    1. Department of Biology and Environmental Studies, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia, USA
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  • Paul A. del Giorgio

    1. Groupe de Recherche Interuniversitaire en Limnologie, Département des Sciences Biologiques, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada
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Corresponding author: F. Guillemette, Groupe de Recherche Interuniversitaire en Limnologie, Département des Sciences Biologiques, Université du Québec à Montréal, CP 8888, Succ. Centre-Ville, Montréal, QC H3C 3P8, Canada. (guillemette.francois@gmail.com)

Abstract

[1] It has often been hypothesized that the dissolved organic carbon (DOC) pool of algal origin in lakes is more bioavailable than its terrestrial counterpart, but this hypothesis has seldom been directly tested. Here we test this hypothesis by tracking the production and isotopic signature of bacterial respiratory CO2 in 2 week lake water incubations and use the resulting data to reconstruct and model the bacterial consumption dynamics of algal and terrestrial DOC. The proportion of algal DOC respired decreased systematically over time in all experiments, suggesting a rapid consumption and depletion of this substrate. Our results further show that the algal DOC pool was used in proportions and at rates twice and 10 times as high as the terrestrial DOC pool, respectively. On the other hand, the absolute amount of labile terrestrial DOC was on average four times higher than labile algal DOC, accounting for almost the entire long-term residual C metabolism, but also contributing to short-term bacterial C consumption. The absolute amount of labile algal DOC increased with chlorophyll a concentrations, whereas total phosphorus appeared to enhance the amount of terrestrial DOC that bacteria could consume, suggesting that the degradation of these pools is not solely governed by their respective chemical properties, but also by interactions with nutrients. Our study shows that there is a highly reactive pool of terrestrial DOC that is processed in parallel to algal DOC, and because of interactions with nutrients, terrestrial DOC likely supports high levels of bacterial metabolism and CO2 production even in more productive lakes.

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