Title

Nitrogen versus phosphorus limitation in a subtropical coastal embayment (Moreton Bay, Australia): implications for management

Document Type

Article

Publication details

Wulff, F, Eyre, BD & Johnstone, R 2011, 'Nitrogen versus phosphorus limitation in a subtropical coastal embayment (Moreton Bay, Australia): implications for management', Ecological Modelling, vol. 222, no. 1, pp. 120-130.

Published version available from:

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2010.08.040

Peer Reviewed

Peer-Reviewed

Abstract

An approach combining nutrient budgets, dynamic modelling, and field observations of phytoplankton and nitrogen (N2)-fixing Lyngbya majuscula following changes in wastewater N loads, was used to demonstrate that Moreton Bay is potentially phosphorus (P) limited. Modelling and nutrient budgeting shows that benthic N-fixation loads are high, allowing the system to overcome any potential N-limitation. Phytoplankton biomass has shown little change from 1991 to 2006 in the sections of Moreton Bay most impacted by wastewater effluents, despite a large reduction in wastewater N loads from 2000 to 2002. This is consistent with modelling that also showed no reduction in primary productivity associated with reduced N loads. Most importantly, there have been rapid increases in the occurrence of N-fixing L. majuscula in Moreton Bay as wastewater P loads have increased relative to wastewater N loads. This is also consistent with modelling. This work supports the premise that there may be fundamental differences in nutrient limitation of primary production between subtropical and temperate coastal systems due to differences in the importance of internal nitrogen sources and sinks (N-fixation and denitrification). These differences need to be recognised for optimum management of coastal systems.