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Growth, production and losses of phytoplankton in the lowland River Spree: carbon balance

Freshwater biology 1995 v.34 no.3 pp. 501-512
biomass, biosynthesis, bottles, carbon, exudation, grazing, lakes, lowlands, oxygen, photosynthesis, phytoplankton, rivers, spring, summer, Germany
1. Phytoplankton carbon assimilation and losses (exudation, dark carbon losses) as well as oxygen release and dark community respiration were measured regularly for 2 years at four stations along the lower Spree (Germany). Carbon balance of river phytoplankton was estimated using measured assimilation, metabolic losses and variations in algal carbon along a stretch of river. 2. The light/dark bottle method was modified to simulate vertical mixing. 3. Waxing and waning of phytoplankton populations dominated the load of particulate organic carbon as well as the oxygen budget of the river. 4. Phytoplankton assimilated 310–358 g C m−2 yr−1. A mean value of 586 mg C m−3 day−1 was fixed in photosynthesis, with 16.7 mg C being exuded during the day and 20.1 mg lost at night. The measured dark respiration was equivalent to only 28% of the daily gross oxygen production of the plankton community. Phytoplankton washed from upstream lakes and reservoirs was not measurably damaged by turbulent transport. 5. In spring, 18–22% of assimilated carbon was used for net biosynthesis of phytoplankton along the river course. At this time, the carbon balance of this part of the Spree was dominated by autochthonous net production. During summer, however, total carbon losses exceeded the intensive carbon assimilation. The decline of algal biomass along the river course in summer was not explicable by measurable physiological losses. The importance of sedimentation and grazing losses is discussed.