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Metabolism in estuarine mesocosms was measured by total system oxygen and carbon dioxide and by C-14 bottle incubations to determine the effects of nutrient enrichment (6 levels) over a 9 mo period. These data provided an unprecedented opportunity for calculating metabolic ratios (photosynthetic quotient [P.Q.] and respiratory quotient [R.Q.]) based on the 3 measures of metabolism and determining the impact of other system processes. System metabolism ratios based on daily data varied from 0 to 5.0. System metabolism ratios of P.Q. and R Q. based on integrated data were highly correlated (r = 0.95 to 0.96) and similar to traditional ratios obtained in phytoplankton studies. A system photosynthetic quotient of 1.2 and a system respiratory quotient of 1.1 were calculated from the integrated data. These ratios were only slightly affected by carbon dioxide diffusion and 3 benthic processes: denitrification, sulfur metabolism and calcium carbonate dissolution. There was no trend for system metabolism ratios up the nutrient gradient. The C-14 estimations of productivity appeared nitrogen limited in the lower nutrient treatments and provided lower estimates than the 2 system measures of production.


All authors are a part of the Marine Ecosystems Research Laboratory at the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography.