, Volume 13, Issue 7, pp 966-977

First online:

Nitrogen and Phosphorus Limitation of Phytoplankton Growth in New Zealand Lakes: Implications for Eutrophication Control

  • Jonathan M. AbellAffiliated withCentre for Biodiversity and Ecology Research, University of Waikato Email author 
  • , Deniz ÖzkundakciAffiliated withCentre for Biodiversity and Ecology Research, University of Waikato
  • , David P. HamiltonAffiliated withCentre for Biodiversity and Ecology Research, University of Waikato

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


We examine macronutrient limitation in New Zealand (NZ) lakes where, contrary to the phosphorus (P) only control paradigm, nitrogen (N) control is widely adopted to alleviate eutrophication. A review of published results of nutrient enrichment experiments showed that N more frequently limited lake productivity than P; however, stoichiometric analysis of a sample of 121 NZ lakes indicates that the majority (52.9%) of lakes have a mean ratio of total nitrogen (TN) to total phosphorus (TP) (by mass) indicative of potential P-limitation (>15:1), whereas only 14.0% of lakes have mean TN:TP indicative of potential N-limitation (<7:1). Comparison of TN, TP, and chlorophyll a data between 121 NZ lakes and 689 lakes in 15 European Union (EU) countries suggests that at the national scale, N has a greater role in determining lake productivity in NZ than in the EU. TN:TP is significantly lower in NZ lakes across all trophic states, a difference that is driven primarily by significantly lower in-lake TN concentrations at low trophic states and significantly higher TP concentrations at higher trophic states. The form of the TN:TP relationship differs between NZ and the EU countries, suggesting that lake nutrient sources and/or loss mechanisms differ between the two regions. Dual control of N and P should be the status quo for lacustrine eutrophication control in New Zealand and more effort is needed to reduce P inputs.


enrichment European Union lake restoration N:P ratio nutrient stoichiometry phosphorus paradigm water quality