Human activities have more than doubled the amount of nitrogen (N) circulating in the biosphere. One major pathway of this anthropogenic N input into ecosystems has been increased regional deposition from the atmosphere. Here we show that atmospheric N deposition increased the stoichiometric ratio of N and phosphorus (P) in lakes in Norway, Sweden, and Colorado, United States, and, as a result, patterns of ecological nutrient limitation were shifted. Under low N deposition, phytoplankton growth is generally N-limited; however, in high-N deposition lakes, phytoplankton growth is consistently P-limited. Continued anthropogenic amplification of the global N cycle will further alter ecological processes, such as biogeochemical cycling, trophic dynamics, and biological diversity, in the world's lakes, even in lakes far from direct human disturbance.
Additional publication details
Shifts in lake N: P stoichiometry and nutrient limitation driven by atmospheric nitrogen deposition