We conducted a series of stepwise NO3− additions to investigate the response of NO3− uptake to short-term (acute) changes in N concentration in 3 prairie streams. Observed NO3− uptake rates increased with short-term elevations in NO3− concentration and were consistent with linear and Michaelis–Menten kinetics models. We compiled these data with uptake rates from additional published studies to calculate robust estimates of N uptake kinetics for prairie streams. Half-saturation coefficients based on compiled data were 6.7 µg/L for NH4 and 67 µg/L for NO3−-N. This difference in half-saturation coefficients suggests that NH4 is more efficiently assimilated than NO3−, indicating a preference for NH4 as an N source. Similarly, ambient concentrations of NH4 and NO3− were less than their respective half-saturation coefficients, and aerial uptake rates were generally <5% of the maximum, suggesting severe limitation of N uptake at ambient conditions. The observed pattern of uptake kinetics suggests that physiological constraints limit biotic N uptake in these low-N streams and contrasts with the pattern of uptake observed in streams with chronically elevated ambient NO3− concentrations.
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