Environmental Management

, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp 17–30 | Cite as

Copper cycles and CuSO4 algicidal capacity in two California lakes

  • John F. Elder
  • Alexander J. Horne


A new reservoir in southern California and a large eutrophic lake in northern California were the sites for an investigation of copper (Cu) in aquatic systems, with attention focused upon toxicity of Cu to algae. Results of bioassay experiments showed significant copper depression of chlorophyll a levels, photosynthesis, and nitrogen fixation at concentrations of 5–10μg//. Blue-green algae are especially susceptible to copper toxicity, primarily because of the inhibition of nitrogen fixation. Theoretical considerations show that Cu is likely to be strongly complexed in natural fresh waters, but not chemically precipitated. Field measurements following a Cu algicide treatment at the reservoir confirmed the expected stability of dissolved copper, showing elevated concentrations persisting for several weeks. Our present information about copper in aquatic systems permits descriptions of various pathways that eventually lead to the sediments. The algicidal effectiveness of copper is quite variable but it is likely to be greatest in lakes where nitrogen-fixing blue-green algae are abundant.

Key words

Eutrophication Copper sulfate Aquatics Bioassay Algicide Blue-green Algae Biogeochemical cycling 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • John F. Elder
    • 1
  • Alexander J. Horne
    • 1
  1. 1.Sanitary Engineering Research LaboratoryUniversity of CaliforniaRichmond

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