The fractionation of nitrogen and oxygen isotopes in macroalgae during the assimilation of nitrate
- 1Division of Marine Geology and Geophysics, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Miami, 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, Fl 33149, USA
- 2Division of Marine Biology and Fisheries, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Miami, 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, Fl 33149, USA
- 3School for Marine Science and Technology, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, New Bedford, MA 02744, USA
- *now at: Department of Geosciences, Boise State University, 1910 University Drive, Boise, Idaho 83725-1535, USA
Abstract. In order to determine and understand the stable isotope fractionation of 18O and 15N manifested during assimilation of NO3− in marine macro-benthic algae, two species (Ulva sp. and Agardhiella sp.) have been grown in a wide range of NO3− concentrations (2–500 μM). Two types of experiments were performed. The first was one in which the concentration of the NO3− was allowed to drift downward as it was assimilated by the algae, between 24 hour replacements of media. These experiments proceeded for periods of between 7 and 10 days. A second set of experiments maintained the NO3− concentration at a low steady-state value by means of a syringe pump. The effective fractionation during the assimilation of the NO3− was determined by measuring the δ15N of both the (i) new algal growth and (ii) residual NO3− in the free-drift experiments after 0, 12, 24 and 48 h. Modelling these data show that the fractionation during assimilation is dependent upon the concentration of NO3− and is effectively 0 at concentrations of less than ~2 μM. The change in the fractionation with respect to concentration is the greatest at lower concentrations (2–10 μM). The fractionation stablizes between 4 and 6‰ at concentrations of between 50 and 500 μM. Although the δ18O and δ15N values of NO3− in the residual solution were correlated, the slope of relationship also varied with respect to NO3− concentration, with slopes of greater than unity at low concentration. These results suggest shifts in the dominant fractionation mechanism of 15N and 18O between concentrations of 1 and 10 μM NO3−. At higher NO3− concentrations (>10–50 μM), fractionation during assimilation will lead to δ15N values in algal biomass lower than the ambient NO3− and 15N enrichments in the residual NO3−.