Uptake of Spartina-derived humic nitrogen by estuarine phytoplankton in nonaxenic and axenic culture
Relative to inorganic nitrogen, concentrations of dissolved organic nitrogen ( DON) are often high, even in regions believed to be nitrogen-limited. The persistence of these high concentrations led to the view that the DON pool was largely refractory and therefore unimportant to plankton nutrition. Any DON that was utilized was believed to fuel bacterial production. More recent work, however, indicates that fluxes into and out of the DON pool can be large, and that the constancy in concentration is a function of tightly coupled production and consumption processes. Evidence is also accumulating which indicates that phytoplankton, including a number of harmful species, may obtain a substantial part of their nitrogen nutrition from organic compounds. Ongoing research includes ways to discriminate between autotrophic and heterotrophic utilization, as well as a number of mechanisms, such as cell surface enzymes and photochemical decomposition, that could facilitate phytoplankton use of DON components.