Flamingos and drought as drivers of nutrients and microbial dynamics in a saline lake

Gema L. Batanero, Elizabeth León-palmero, Linlin Li, Andy J. Green, Manuel Rendón-martos, Curtis A. Suttle, Isabel Reche

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28 Citations (Scopus)
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Waterbird aggregations and droughts affect nutrient and microbial dynamics in wetlands. We analysed the effects of high densities of flamingos on nutrients and microbial dynamics in a saline lake during a wet and a dry hydrological year, and explored the effects of guano on prokaryotic growth. Concentrations of dissolved organic carbon, total phosphorus and total nitrogen in the surface waters were 2–3 fold higher during the drought and were correlated with salinity. Flamingos stimulated prokaryotic heterotrophic production and triggered cascading effects on prokaryotic abundance, viruses and dissolved nitrogen. This stimulus of heterotrophic prokaryotes was associated with soluble phosphorus inputs from guano, and also from sediments. In the experiments, the specific growth rate and the carrying capacity were almost twice as high after guano addition than in the control treatments, and were coupled with soluble phosphorus assimilation. Flamingo guano was also rich in nitrogen. Dissolved N in lake water lagged behind the abundance of flamingos, but the causes of this lag are unclear. This study demonstrates that intense droughts could lead to increases in total nutrients in wetlands; however, microbial activity is likely constrained by the availability of soluble phosphorus, which appears to be more dependent on the abundance of waterbirds.
Original languageEnglish
Article number12173
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017




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