Bruesewitz, D. A., J. L. Tank, and S. K. Hamilton. 2009. Seasonal effects of zebra mussels on littoral nitrogen transformation rates in Gull Lake, Michigan, U.S.A. Freshwater Biology 54:1427-1443.
1. Zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) are successful colonisers of lake littoral habitats and they interact strongly with littoral benthos. Previous research suggests that localised areas colonised by zebra mussels may be hotspots of nitrogen (N) cycling.
2. The effects of zebra mussels on nitrification and denitrification rates were examined approximately every other month for 1 year in Gull Lake, Michigan, U.S.A. Littoral sediment was collected from an area free of zebra mussels and distributed into shallow trays; rocks colonised with zebra mussels were placed in half of the trays, while uncolonised rocks were placed in the remaining trays. After an incubation period of 6–8 weeks in the lake, sediment and zebra mussels were collected from the trays, replaced with new sediment and zebra mussels, and placed in the lake for the next interval. In the laboratory, sediment nitrification and denitrification rates were measured for each tray.
3. Sediment nitrification rates did not increase in the presence of zebra mussels; instead nitrification rates were sensitive to changes in water temperature and increased with increasing exchangeable sediment ammonium. In contrast, denitrification rates increased in sediment trays with zebra mussels in the winter when nitrate (NO3−) availability was high and when Chara did not grow in the trays.
4. Sediment denitrification was NO3−-limited in all seasons, regardless of zebra mussel treatment. However, sediment in the presence of zebra mussels responded less to NO3− addition, suggesting that NO3− limitation of denitrification can be reduced by zebra mussel activity. Zebra mussels have a seasonally variable impact on sediment denitrification rates, and this may translate into altered seasonal patterns of N cycling in localised areas of lakes where they are particularly abundant.
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