Why the phosphorus retention of lakes does not necessarily depend on the oxygen supply to their sediment surface

Gächter, René, Beat Müller

Limnol. Oceanogr., 48(2), 2003, 929-933 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2003.48.2.0929

ABSTRACT: In order to improve the trophic state of Lake Sempach, a eutrophied lake in central Switzerland, its external phosphorus (P) load has been decreased and its hypolimnion has been artificially oxygenated to lower the lake-internal P recycling. Based on more than 15 yr of experience, we conclude that the reduction of the external P load resulted in a corresponding decrease of the lake’s P concentration. However, contrary to initial expectations, increased hypolimnetic dissolved oxygen concentrations neither (1) reduced the P release from sediments during summer nor (2) resulted in anincreased permanent P retention. These observations warrant a reevaluation of the well-accepted management strategy of decreasing the lake internal P cycling by maintaining an aerobic hypolimnion and sediment surface. We hypothesize that oxygenation only results in an increased permanent benthic P burial if, because of the depressed sulfide production, more ferrous phosphate (e.g., vivianite) and less FeS is deposited in the anoxic sediment. Hence, it is not the oxic sediment surface that directly affects the permanent redox-dependent sediment P retention but the molar ratio of the available reactive Fe(II) : S2- : PO4 in the anoxic sediment. This ratio is driven by the settling rate and the nature of organic matter and particulate iron, as well as the supply of oxygen, nitrate, and sulfate to the sediment.

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