impacts of glacial processes on nitrogen cycling in the beartooth mountains, montana
Nitrogen is one of the main limiting factors on primary production, and is particularly important in low-nutrient systems, as is the case in most alpine environments. Waters draining from glacial alpine catchments have inorganic nitrogen concentrations, specifically nitrate, that are an order of magnitude higher than adjacent non-glaciated systems. Increased nitrate input to headwater lakes from glaciated catchments increases phytoplankton and diatom populations and the elevated nitrogen concentrations persist downstream, affecting multiple downstream lakes. However, the specific source of the elevated nitrate concentrations remains unknown.
Jordan Allen, a graduate student at Montana State University, is researching the magnitude of nitrogen concentration variation in two adjacent glaciated and non-glaciated catchments in the Beartooth Mountains to determine the source(s) of nitrate and the processes that control its supply. Nature has provided an excellent natural laboratory to easily compare the effects of glaciation while keeping most other variables nearly the same.