Ammonia is a widespread pollutant in aquatic ecosystems originating directly and indirectly from human activities, which can strongly affect the structure and functioning of the aquatic foodweb. The biological oxidation of NH4+
to nitrite, and then nitrate is a key part of the complex nitrogen cycle and a fundamental process in aquatic environments, having a profound influence on ecosystem stability and functionality. Environmental studies have shown that our current knowledge of physical and chemical factors that control this process and the abundance and function of involved microorganisms are not entirely understood. In this paper, the efficiency and the transformation velocity of ammonium into oxidised compounds in 14 south-alpine lakes in northern Italy, with a similar origin, but different trophic levels, are compared with lab-scale experimentations (20 °C, dark, oxygen saturation) that are performed in artificial microcosms (4 L). The water samples were collected in different months to highlight the possible effect of seasonality on the development of the ammonium oxidation process. In four-liter microcosms, concentrations were increased by 1 mg/L NH4+
and the process of ammonium oxidation was constantly monitored. The time elapsed for the decrease of 25% and 95% of the initial ion ammonium concentration and the rate for that ammonium oxidation were evaluated. Principal Component Analysis and General Linear Model, performed on 56 observations and several chemical and physical parameters, highlighted the important roles of total phosphorus and nitrogen concentrations on the commencement of the oxidation process. Meanwhile, the natural concentration of ammonium influenced the rate of nitrification (µg NH4+
/L day). Seasonality did not seem to significantly affect the ammonium transformation. The results highlight the different vulnerabilities of lakes with different trophic statuses.
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