Cyanobacterial Nitrogen Fixation in the Baltic Sea : With focus on Aphanizomenon sp

Sammanfattning: Cyanobacteria are widely distributed in marine, freshwater and terrestrial habitats. Some cyanobacterial genera can convert di-nitrogen gas (N2) to bioavailable ammonium, i.e. perform nitrogen (N) fixation, and are therefore of profound significance for N cycling. N fixation by summer blooms of cyanobacteria is one of the largest sources of new N for the Baltic Sea. This thesis investigated N fixation by cyanobacteria in the Baltic Sea and explored the fate of fixed N at different spatial and temporal scales. In Paper I, we measured cell-specific N fixation by Aphanizomenon sp. at 10 ºC, early in the season. Fixation rates were high and comparable to those in late summer, indicating that Aphanizomenon sp. is an important contributor to N fixation already in its early growth season. In Paper II, we studied fixation and release of N by Aphanizomenon sp. and found that about half of the fixed N was rapidly released and transferred to other species, including autotrophic and heterotrophic bacteria, diatoms and copepods. In Paper III, we followed the development of a cyanobacterial bloom and related changes in dissolved and particulate N pools in the upper mixed surface layer. The bloom-associated total N (TN) increase was mainly due to higher particulate organic N (PON) concentrations, but also to increases in dissolved organic nitrogen (DON). About half the PON-increase could be explained by the sum of N-fixing cyanobacteria, other phytoplankton (>2µm) and zooplankton, indicating that production was stimulated by the N fixation. In Paper IV, we used a growth model based on measured photosynthesis–irradiance relationships to explore the production potential of Aphanizomenon sp. The model included data on irradiance, biomass, temperature and light attenuation (1999–2013). Until the bloom peak, the modelled production matched the measured biomass, indicating low production losses. Over the whole season, the modelled production could explain a substantial part of the summer TN increase, assuming that plausible losses (such as grazing or cell lysis) are retained within the upper mixed layer. Complementing the other data, we also investigated the nutrient content (Paper I) and varying cell width (Paper IV) of Aphanizomenon sp. By a combination of approaches, this thesis has contributed new information on cyanobacterial N fixation rates, the transfer of fixed N to other organisms in the food web and shown the potential for fixed N to stimulate summer primary and secondary production in the Baltic Sea.