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Daniel Conley

Daniel Conley


Daniel Conley

Large differences between carbon and nutrient loss rates along the land to ocean aquatic continuum—implications for energy : nutrient ratios at downstream sites


  • Gesa A. Weyhenmeyer
  • Daniel J. Conley

Summary, in English

The balance between the availability of energy and nutrients is decisive for the growth and survival of organisms. Here, we evaluated how energy, in this study expressed as total carbon (TC), is lost along the land to ocean aquatic continuum (LOAC) in relation to nutrients, i.e., total phosphorus (TP), total nitrogen (TN), total iron (TFe), and dissolved silica (DSi). For the evaluation, we used data from 4774 lakes, 149 streams, and 52 river mouths from the boreal region. We found that the loss of all chemical variables followed a first order decay function along the LOAC with shortest half-lives for TFe and DSi (410 d and 568 d, respectively). The half-life of TC was more than twice as long as for TFe and DSi, resulting in rapidly increasing TC:TFe and TC:DSi ratios along the LOAC. In contrast, TC:TP and TC:TN ratios decreased along the LOAC. The TC and TFe concentration declines along the LOAC were quantitatively similar to the TC and TFe concentration declines from winter to summer, indicating that similar drivers are responsible for spatial and seasonal TC and TFe losses in inland waters. We conclude that the energy:nutrient ratio rapidly changes along the LOAC with an increasing surplus of energy in relation to TFe and DSi the longer water stays in the landscape. These findings have implications for the growth of aquatic organisms along the LOAC, where organisms are likely to become increasingly iron and silica limited with increasing water retention in the landscape.


  • Quaternary Sciences
  • BECC: Biodiversity and Ecosystem services in a Changing Climate

Publishing year







Limnology and Oceanography



Document type

Journal article




  • Ecology




  • ISSN: 1939-5590