Matching Items (10)

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Soil moisture availability and energetic controls on belowground network complexity and function in arid ecosystems

Description

The explicit role of soil organisms in shaping soil health, rates of pedogenesis, and resistance to erosion has only just recently begun to be explored in the last century. However,

The explicit role of soil organisms in shaping soil health, rates of pedogenesis, and resistance to erosion has only just recently begun to be explored in the last century. However, much of the research regarding soil biota and soil processes is centered on maintaining soil fertility (e.g., plant nutrient availability) and soil structure in mesic- and agro- ecosystems. Despite the empirical and theoretical strides made in soil ecology over the last few decades, questions regarding ecosystem function and soil processes remain, especially for arid areas. Arid areas have unique ecosystem biogeochemistry, decomposition processes, and soil microbial responses to moisture inputs that deviate from predictions derived using data generated in more mesic systems. For example, current paradigm predicts that soil microbes will respond positively to increasing moisture inputs in a water-limited environment, yet data collected in arid regions are not congruent with this hypothesis. The influence of abiotic factors on litter decomposition rates (e.g., photodegradation), litter quality and availability, soil moisture pulse size, and resulting feedbacks on detrital food web structure must be explicitly considered for advancing our understanding of arid land ecology. However, empirical data coupling arid belowground food webs and ecosystem processes are lacking. My dissertation explores the resource controls (soil organic matter and soil moisture) on food web network structure, size, and presence/absence of expected belowground trophic groups across a variety of sites in Arizona.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2014

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Stoichiometric producer-grazer models, incorporating the effects of excess food-nutrient content on grazer dynamics

Description

There has been important progress in understanding ecological dynamics through the development of the theory of ecological stoichiometry. This fast growing theory provides new constraints and mechanisms that can be

There has been important progress in understanding ecological dynamics through the development of the theory of ecological stoichiometry. This fast growing theory provides new constraints and mechanisms that can be formulated into mathematical models. Stoichiometric models incorporate the effects of both food quantity and food quality into a single framework that produce rich dynamics. While the effects of nutrient deficiency on consumer growth are well understood, recent discoveries in ecological stoichiometry suggest that consumer dynamics are not only affected by insufficient food nutrient content (low phosphorus (P): carbon (C) ratio) but also by excess food nutrient content (high P:C). This phenomenon, known as the stoichiometric knife edge, in which animal growth is reduced not only by food with low P content but also by food with high P content, needs to be incorporated into mathematical models. Here we present Lotka-Volterra type models to investigate the growth response of Daphnia to algae of varying P:C ratios. Using a nonsmooth system of two ordinary differential equations (ODEs), we formulate the first model to incorporate the phenomenon of the stoichiometric knife edge. We then extend this stoichiometric model by mechanistically deriving and tracking free P in the environment. This resulting full knife edge model is a nonsmooth system of three ODEs. Bifurcation analysis and numerical simulations of the full model, that explicitly tracks phosphorus, leads to quantitatively different predictions than previous models that neglect to track free nutrients. The full model shows that the grazer population is sensitive to excess nutrient concentrations as a dynamical free nutrient pool induces extreme grazer population density changes. These modeling efforts provide insight on the effects of excess nutrient content on grazer dynamics and deepen our understanding of the effects of stoichiometry on the mechanisms governing population dynamics and the interactions between trophic levels.

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Date Created
  • 2014

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How does nutrient limitation affect expression of assimilatory genes within a photosynthetic microbial mat community in Yellowstone National Park?

Description

Microbial mat communities that inhabit hot springs in Yellowstone National Park have been studied for their biodiversity, energetics and evolutionary history, yet little is know about how these communities cope

Microbial mat communities that inhabit hot springs in Yellowstone National Park have been studied for their biodiversity, energetics and evolutionary history, yet little is know about how these communities cope with nutrient limitation. In the present study the changes in assimilatory gene expression levels for nitrogen (nrgA), phosphorus (phoA), and iron (yusV) were measured under various nutrient enrichment experiments. While results for nrgA and phoA were inconclusive, results for yusV showed an increase in expression with the addition of N and Fe. This is the first data that shows the impact of nutrients on siderophore uptake regulation in hot spring microbes.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2012

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The effects of non-native and native anuran tadpoles on aquatic ecosystem processes

Description

Non-native consumers can significantly alter processes at the population, community, and ecosystem level, and they are a major concern in many aquatic systems. Although the community-level effects of non-native anuran

Non-native consumers can significantly alter processes at the population, community, and ecosystem level, and they are a major concern in many aquatic systems. Although the community-level effects of non-native anuran tadpoles are well understood, their ecosystem-level effects have been less studied. Here, I tested the hypothesis that natural densities of non-native bullfrog tadpoles (Lithobates catesbeianus) and native Woodhouse's toad tadpoles (Anaxyrus woodhousii) have dissimilar effects on aquatic ecosystem processes because of differences in grazing and nutrient recycling (excretion and egestion). I measured bullfrog and Woodhouse's carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus nutrient recycling rates. Then, I determined the impact of tadpole grazing on periphyton biomass (chlorophyll a) during a 39-day mesocosm experiment. Using the same experiment, I also quantified the effect of tadpole grazing and nutrient excretion on periphyton net primary production (NPP). Lastly I measured how dissolved and particulate nutrient concentrations and respiration rates changed in the presence of the two tadpole species. Per unit biomass, I found that bullfrog and Woodhouse's tadpoles excreted nitrogen and phosphorus at similar rates, though Woodhouse's tadpoles egested more carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus. However, bullfrogs recycled nutrients at higher N:C and N:P ratios. Tadpole excretion did not cause a detectable change in dissolved nutrient concentrations. However, the percent phosphorus in mesocosm detritus was significantly higher in both tadpole treatments, compared to a tadpole-free control. Neither tadpole species decreased periphyton biomass through grazing, although bullfrog nutrient excretion increased areal NPP. This result was due to higher biomass, not higher biomass-specific productivity. Woodhouse's tadpoles significantly decreased respiration in the mesocosm detritus, while bullfrog tadpoles had no effect. This research highlights functional differences between species by showing non-native bullfrog tadpoles and native Woodhouse's tadpoles may have different effects on arid, aquatic ecosystems. Specifically, it indicates bullfrog introductions may alter primary productivity and particulate nutrient dynamics.

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Date Created
  • 2015

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Hydrothermal habitats: measurements of bulk microbial elemental composition, and models of hydrothermal influences on the evolution of dwarf planets

Description

Finding habitable worlds is a key driver of solar system exploration. Many solar

system missions seek environments providing liquid water, energy, and nutrients, the three ingredients necessary to sustain life.

Such environments

Finding habitable worlds is a key driver of solar system exploration. Many solar

system missions seek environments providing liquid water, energy, and nutrients, the three ingredients necessary to sustain life.

Such environments include hydrothermal systems, spatially-confined systems where hot aqueous fluid circulates through rock by convection. I sought to characterize hydrothermal microbial communities, collected in hot spring sediments and mats at Yellowstone National Park, USA, by measuring their bulk elemental composition. To do so, one must minimize the contribution of non-biological material to the samples analyzed. I demonstrate that this can be achieved using a separation method that takes advantage of the density contrast between cells and sediment and preserves cellular elemental contents. Using this method, I show that in spite of the tremendous physical, chemical, and taxonomic diversity of Yellowstone hot springs, the composition of microorganisms there is surprisingly ordinary. This suggests the existence of a stoichiometric envelope common to all life as we know it. Thus, future planetary investigations could use elemental fingerprints to assess the astrobiological potential of hydrothermal settings beyond Earth.

Indeed, hydrothermal activity may be widespread in the solar system. Most solar system worlds larger than 200 km in radius are dwarf planets, likely composed of an icy, cometary mantle surrounding a rocky, chondritic core. I enhance a dwarf planet evolution code, including the effects of core fracturing and hydrothermal circulation, to demonstrate that dwarf planets likely have undergone extensive water-rock interaction. This supports observations of aqueous products on their surfaces. I simulate the alteration of chondritic rock by pure water or cometary fluid to show that aqueous alteration feeds back on geophysical evolution: it modifies the fluid antifreeze content, affecting its persistence over geological timescales; and the distribution of radionuclides, whose decay is a chief heat source on dwarf planets. Interaction products can be observed if transported to the surface. I simulate numerically how cryovolcanic transport is enabled by primordial and hydrothermal volatile exsolution. Cryovolcanism seems plausible on dwarf planets in light of images recently returned by spacecrafts. Thus, these coupled geophysical-geochemical models provide a comprehensive picture of dwarf planet evolution, processes, and habitability.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2015

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Ecosystem Impacts of Consumer Evolution: Intraspecific Variation in the Elemental Phenotype of Aquatic Consumers

Description

Primary production in aquatic ecosystems is often limited by the availability of nitrogen (N) and/or phosphorus (P). Animals can substantially alter the relative availability of these nutrients by storing and

Primary production in aquatic ecosystems is often limited by the availability of nitrogen (N) and/or phosphorus (P). Animals can substantially alter the relative availability of these nutrients by storing and recycling them in differential ratios. Variation in these stoichiometric traits, i.e., the elemental phenotype, within a species can link organismal evolution to ecosystem function. I examined the drivers of intraspecific variation in the elemental phenotype of aquatic consumers to test for the generality of these effects. Over a thermal gradient in Panamá, I found that average specific growth grate and body P content of the mayfly Thraulodes increased with environmental temperature, but that these patterns were due to site-specific differences rather than the direct effects of warmer temperature. In a meta-analysis of published studies, I found that in fishes intraspecific variation in dietary N:P ratio had a significant effect on excretion N:P ratio, but only when accounting for consumption. I tested for the effects of variation in consumption on excretion N:P ratio among populations of the fish Gambusia marshi in the Cuatro Ciénegas basin in Coahuila, Mexico. G. marshi inhabits warm groundwater-fed springs where it often co-occurs with predatory fishes and cool runoff-dominated wetlands which lack predators. Using stoichiometric models, I generated predictions for how variation in environmental temperature and predation pressure would affect the N:P ratio recycled by fishes. Adult female G. marshi excretion N:P ratio was higher in runoff-dominated sites, which was consistent with predators driving increased consumption rates by G. marshi. This result was supported by a diet ration manipulation experiment in which G. marshi raised on an ad libitum diet excreted N:P at a lower ratio than fish raised on a restricted diet ration. To further support the impacts of predation on phenotypic diversification in G. marshi, I examined how body morphology varied among habitats and among closely related species. Both among and within species, predation had stronger effects on morphology than the physical environment. Overall, these results suggest that predation, not temperature, has strong effects on these phenotypic traits of aquatic consumers which can alter their role in ecosystem nutrient cycling through variation in consumption rates.

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Date Created
  • 2017

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Dimensions of Phosphorus Sustainability: Phosphorus Flows in a Rapidly Growing City and Field Tests of Potential Agricultural Prototypes

Description

Phosphorus (P) is a limiting nutrient in ecosystems and is mainly used as fertilizer to grow food. The demand for P is increasing due to the need for increased food

Phosphorus (P) is a limiting nutrient in ecosystems and is mainly used as fertilizer to grow food. The demand for P is increasing due to the need for increased food supply to support a growing population. However, P is obtained from phosphate rock, a finite resource that takes millions of years to form. These phosphate rock deposits are found in only a few countries. This uneven distribution of phosphate rock leads to a potential imbalance in socio-economic systems, generating food security pressure due to unaffordability of P fertilizer. Thus, the first P-sustainability concern is a stable supply of affordable P fertilizer for agriculture. In addition, improper management of P from field to fork leaves an open end in the global P cycle that results in widespread water pollution. This eutrophication leads to toxic algal blooms and hypoxic “dead zones”. Thus, the second P-sustainability concern involves P pollution from agriculture and cities. This thesis focuses on P flows in a city (Macau as a case study) and on potential strategies for improvements of sustainable P management in city and agriculture. Chapter 2 showed a P-substance-flow analysis for Macau from 1998-2016. Macau is a city with a unique economy build on tourism. The major P flows into Macau were from food, detergent, and sand (for land reclamation). P recovery from wastewater treatment could enhance Macau’s overall P sustainability if the recovered P could be directed towards replacing mined P used to produce food. Chapters 3 and 4 tested a combination of P sustainability management tactics including recycling P from cities and enhancing P-use efficiency (PUE) in agriculture. Algae and biosolids were used as recycled-P fertilizers, and genetically transformed lettuce was used as the a PUE-enhanced crop. This P sustainable system was compared to the conventional agricultural system using commercial fertilizer and the wild type lettuce. Chapters 3 and 4 showed that trying to combine a PUE-enhancement strategy with P recycling did not work well, although organic fertilizers like algae and biosolids may be more beneficial as part of longer-term agricultural practices. This would be a good area for future research.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2020

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Growing rocks: the effects of calcium carbonate deposition on phosphorus availability in streams

Description

Humans have dramatically increased phosphorus (P) availability in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. As P is often a limiting nutrient of primary production, changes in its availability can have dramatic effects

Humans have dramatically increased phosphorus (P) availability in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. As P is often a limiting nutrient of primary production, changes in its availability can have dramatic effects on ecosystem processes. I examined the effects of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) deposition, which can lower P concentrations via coprecipitation of phosphate, on P availability in two systems: streams in the Huachuca Mountains, Arizona, and a stream, Río Mesquites, in Cuatro Ciénegas, México. Calcium carbonate forms as travertine in the former and within the microbialites of the latter. Despite these differences, CaCO3 deposition led to lowered P availability in both systems. By analyzing a three-year dataset of water chemistry from the Huachuca Mountain streams, I determined that P concentrations were negatively related to CaCO3 deposition rates. I also discovered that CaCO3 was positively correlated with nitrogen concentrations, suggesting that the stoichiometric effect of CaCO3 deposition on nutrient availability is due not only to coprecipitation of phosphate, but also to P-related constraints on biotic nitrogen uptake. Building from these observations, bioassays of nutrient limitation of periphyton growth suggest that P limitation is more prevalent in streams with active CaCO3 deposition than those without. Furthermore, when I experimentally reduced rates of CaCO3 deposition within one of the streams by partial light-exclusion, areal P uptake lengths decreased, periphyton P content and growth increased, and periphyton nutrient limitation by P decreased. In Río Mesquites, CaCO3 deposition was also associated with P limitation of microbial growth. There, I investigated the consequences of reductions in CaCO3 deposition with several methods. Calcium removal led to increased concentrations of P in the microbial biomass while light reductions decreased microbial biomass and chemical inhibition had no effect. These results suggest that CaCO3 deposition in microbialites does limit biological uptake of P, that photoautotrophs play an important role in nutrient acquisition, and, combined with other experimental observations, that sulfate reduction may support CaCO3 deposition in the microbialite communities of Río Mesquites. Overall, my results suggest that the effects of CaCO3 deposition on P availability are general and this process should be considered when managing nutrient flows across aquatic ecosystems.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2015

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Molybdenum biogeochemistry in an evolutionary context: nitrogen assimilation, microbial storage and environmental budgets

Description

Molybdenum (Mo) is a key trace nutrient for biological assimilation of nitrogen, either as nitrogen gas (N2) or nitrate (NO3-). Although Mo is the most abundant metal in seawater (105

Molybdenum (Mo) is a key trace nutrient for biological assimilation of nitrogen, either as nitrogen gas (N2) or nitrate (NO3-). Although Mo is the most abundant metal in seawater (105 nM), its concentration is low (<5 nM) in most freshwaters today, and it was scarce in the ocean before 600 million years ago. The use of Mo for nitrogen assimilation can be understood in terms of the changing Mo availability through time; for instance, the higher Mo content of eukaryotic vs. prokaryotic nitrate reductase may have stalled proliferation of eukaryotes in low-Mo Proterozoic oceans. Field and laboratory experiments were performed to study Mo requirements for NO3- assimilation and N2 fixation, respectively. Molybdenum-nitrate addition experiments at Castle Lake, California revealed interannual and depth variability in plankton community response, perhaps resulting from differences in species composition and/or ammonium availability. Furthermore, lake sediments were elevated in Mo compared to soils and bedrock in the watershed. Box modeling suggested that the largest source of Mo to the lake was particulate matter from the watershed. Month-long laboratory experiments with heterocystous cyanobacteria (HC) showed that <1 nM Mo led to low N2 fixation rates, while 10 nM Mo was sufficient for optimal rates. At 1500 nM Mo, freshwater HC hyperaccumulated Mo intercellularly, whereas coastal HC did not. These differences in storage capacity were likely due to the presence in freshwater HC of the small molybdate-binding protein, Mop, and its absence in coastal and marine cyanobacterial species. Expression of the mop gene was regulated by Mo availability in the freshwater HC species Nostoc sp. PCC 7120. Under low Mo (<1 nM) conditions, mop gene expression was up-regulated compared to higher Mo (150 and 3000 nM) treatments, but the subunit composition of the Mop protein changed, suggesting that Mop does not bind Mo in the same manner at <1 nM Mo that it can at higher Mo concentrations. These findings support a role for Mop as a Mo storage protein in HC and suggest that freshwater HC control Mo cellular homeostasis at the post-translational level. Mop's widespread distribution in prokaryotes lends support to the theory that it may be an ancient protein inherited from low-Mo Precambrian oceans.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2011

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Denitrification and greenhouse gas dynamics in lakes receiving atmospheric nitrogen deposition

Description

The global transport and deposition of anthropogenic nitrogen (N) to downwind ecosystems are significant and continue to increase. Indeed, atmospheric deposition can be a significant source of N to many

The global transport and deposition of anthropogenic nitrogen (N) to downwind ecosystems are significant and continue to increase. Indeed, atmospheric deposition can be a significant source of N to many watersheds, including those in remote, unpopulated areas. Bacterial denitrification in lake sediments may ameliorate the effects of N loading by converting nitrate (NO3-) to N2 gas. Denitrification also produces nitrous oxide (N2O), a potent greenhouse gas. The ecological effects of atmospheric N inputs in terrestrial ecosystems and the pelagic zone of lakes have been well documented; however, similar research in lake sediments is lacking. This project investigates the effects N of deposition on denitrification and N2O production in lakes. Atmospheric N inputs might alter the availability of NO3- and other key resources to denitrifiers. Such altered resources could influence denitrification, N2O production, and the abundance of denitrifying bacteria in sediments. The research contrasts these responses in lakes at the ends of gradients of N deposition in Colorado and Norway. Rates of denitrification and N2O production were elevated in the sediments of lakes subject to anthropogenic N inputs. There was no evidence, however, that N deposition has altered sediment resources or the abundance of denitrifiers. Further investigation into the dynamics of nitric oxide, N2O, and N2 during denitrification found no difference between deposition regions. Regardless of atmospheric N inputs, sediments from lakes in both Norway and Colorado possess considerable capacity to remove NO3- by denitrification. Catchment-specific properties may influence the denitrifying community more strongly than the rate of atmospheric N loading. In this regard, sediments appear to be insulated from the effects of N deposition compared to the water column. Lastly, surface water N2O concentrations were greater in high-deposition lakes compared to low-deposition lakes. To understand the potential magnitude of deposition-induced N2O production, the greenhouse gas inventory methodology of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was applied to available datasets. Estimated emissions from lakes are 7-371 Gg N y-1, suggesting that lakes could be an important source of N2O.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2010