Both nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) can limit primary production in shallow lakes, but it is still debated how the importance of N and P varies in time and space. We sampled 83 shallow lakes along a latitudinal gradient (5°–55° S) in South America and assessed the potential nutrient limitation using different methods including nutrient ratios in sediment, water, and seston, dissolved nutrient concentrations, and occurrence of N-fixing cyanobacteria. We found that local characteristics such as soil type and associated land use in the catchment, hydrology, and also the presence of abundant submerged macrophyte growth influenced N and P limitation. We found neither a consistent variation in nutrient limitation nor indications for a steady change in denitrification along the latitudinal gradient. Contrary to findings in other regions, we did not find a relationship between the occurrence of (N-fixing and non-N-fixing) cyanobacteria and the TN:TP ratio. We found N-fixing cyanobacteria (those with heterocysts) exclusively in lakes with dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) concentrations of
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