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Nitrogen fixation by cyanobacteria stimulates production in Baltic food webs

Journal article
Authors A. M. L. Karlson
J. Duberg
N. H. Motwani
H. Hogfors
I. Klawonn
Helle Ploug
J. B. Sveden
A. Garbaras
B. Sundelin
S. Hajdu
U. Larsson
R. Elmgren
E. Gorokhova
Published in Ambio
Volume 44
Pages S413-S426
ISSN 0044-7447
Publication year 2015
Published at Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Pages S413-S426
Language en
Keywords Diazotrophic cyanobacteria, Food webs, Zooplankton grazing, Secondary production, Fish, deposit-feeding macrofauna, nodularia-spumigena, fresh-water, filamentous cyanobacteria, toxic cyanobacterium, eurytemora-affinis, calanoid copepods, acartia-bifilosa, aphanizomenon sp, climate-change, Engineering, Environmental Sciences & Ecology
Subject categories Biological Sciences, Environmental Sciences


Filamentous, nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria form extensive summer blooms in the Baltic Sea. Their ability to fix dissolved N-2 allows cyanobacteria to circumvent the general summer nitrogen limitation, while also generating a supply of novel bioavailable nitrogen for the food web. However, the fate of the nitrogen fixed by cyanobacteria remains unresolved, as does its importance for secondary production in the Baltic Sea. Here, we synthesize recent experimental and field studies providing strong empirical evidence that cyanobacterial nitrogen is efficiently assimilated and transferred in Baltic food webs via two major pathways: directly by grazing on fresh or decaying cyanobacteria and indirectly through the uptake by other phytoplankton and microbes of bioavailable nitrogen exuded from cyanobacterial cells. This information is an essential step toward guiding nutrient management to minimize noxious blooms without overly reducing secondary production, and ultimately most probably fish production in the Baltic Sea.

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