Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Eutrophication in the Yunnan Plateau lakes: the influence of lake morphology, watershed land use, and socioeconomic factors



Lakes play an important role in socioeconomic development and ecological balance in China, but their water quality has deteriorated considerably in recent decades. In this study, we investigated the spatial–temporal variations of eutrophication parameters (secchi depth, total nitrogen, total phosphorus, chemical oxygen demand, chlorophyll-a, trophic level index, and trophic state index) and their relationships with lake morphology, watershed land use, and socioeconomic factors in the Yunnan Plateau lakes.


Results indicated that about 77.8% of lakes were eutrophic according to trophic state index. The plateau lakes showed spatial variations in water quality and could be classified into high-nutrient and low-nutrient groups. However, because watersheds were dominated by vegetation, all eutrophication parameters except chlorophyll-a showed no significant differences between the wet and dry seasons. Lake depth, water residence time, volume, and percentage of built-up land were significantly related to several eutrophication parameters. Agricultural land use and social–economic factors had no significant correlation with all eutrophication parameters. Stepwise regression analyses demonstrated that lake depth and water residence time accounted for 73.8% to 87.6% of the spatial variation of single water quality variables, respectively. Redundancy analyses indicated that lake morphology, watershed land use, and socioeconomic factors together explained 74.3% of the spatial variation in overall water quality. The results imply that water quality degradation in the plateau lakes may be mainly due to the domestic and industrial wastewaters. This study will improve our understanding of the determinants of lake water quality and help to design efficient strategies for controlling eutrophication in the plateau region.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6


  1. Abell JM, Özkundakci D, Hamilton DP, Miller SD (2011) Relationships between land use and nitrogen and phosphorus in New Zealand lakes. Mar Freshw Res 62:162–175

  2. Ahearn DS, Sheibley RW, Dahlgren RA, Anderson M, Johnson J, Tate KW (2005) Land use and land cover influence on water quality in the last free-flowing river draining the western Sierra Nevada, California. J Hydrol 313:234–247

  3. Ansari AA, Gill SS, Lanza GR, Rast W (2010) Eutrophication: causes, consequences and control. Springer, Dordrecht

  4. Bott TL, Montgomery DS, Arscott DB, Dow CL (2006) Primary productivity in receiving reservoirs: links to influent streams. J N Am Benthol Soc 25:1045–1061

  5. Carlson RE (1977) A trophic state index for lakes. Limnol Oceanogr 22:361–369

  6. Chen LD, Fu BJ, Zhang SR, Qiu J, Guo XD, Yang FL (2002) A comparative study on nitrogen-concentration dynamics in surface water in a heterogeneous landscape. Environ Geol 42:424–432

  7. Chen CY, Pickhardt PC, Xu MQ, Folt CL (2008) Mercury and arsenic bioaccumulation and eutrophication in Baiyangdian Lake, China. Water Air Soil Pollut 190:115–127

  8. Dong B, Mao Z, Brown L, Chen XH, Peng LY, Wang JZ (2009) Irrigation ponds: possibility and potentials for the treatment of drainage water from paddy fields in Zhanghe Irrigation System. Sci China Ser F-Inf Sci 52:3320–3327

  9. Ekholm P, Malve O, Kirkkala T (1997) Internal and external loading as regulators of nutrient concentrations in the agriculturally loaded Lake Pyhäjärvi (southwest Finland). Hydrobiologia 345:3–14

  10. Galbraith LM, Burns CW (2007) Linking land use, water body type and water quality in southern New Zealand. Landsc Ecol 22:231–241

  11. Hong HC, Wong MH, Mazumder A, Liang Y (2008) Trophic state, natural organic matter and disinfection by-product formation potential of drinking water reservoirs around Pearl River Delta Region (China). J Hydrol 359:164–173

  12. James RT, Havens KE, Zhu G, Qin B (2009) Comparative analysis of nutrients, chlorophyll and transparency in two large shallow lakes (Lake Taihu, P.R. China and Lake Okeechobee, USA). Hydrobiologia 627:211–231

  13. Jin XC (2003) Analysis of eutrophication state and trend for lakes in China. J Limnol 62:60–66

  14. Johnson LB, Richards C, Host GE, Arthur JW (1997) Landscape influences on water chemistry in Midwestern stream ecosystems. Freshw Biol 37:193–208

  15. Kiage LM, Walker ND (2009) Using NDVI from MODIS to monitor duckweed bloom in Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela. Water Resourc Manage 23:1125–1135

  16. Kopácek J, Stuchlík E, Straškrabová V, Pšenáková P (2000) Factors governing nutrient status of mountain lakes in the Tatra Mountains. Freshw Biol 43:369–383

  17. Kunming Environmental Protection Bureau (KEPB) (2001) Tenth five-year plan of water pollution integrated control in Dianchi watershed. Kunming Environmental Protection Bureau, Kunming (in Chinese)

  18. Kunming Environmental Protection Bureau (KEPB) (2006) Eleventh five-year plan of water pollution integrated control in Dianchi watershed. Kunming Environmental Protection Bureau, Kunming (in Chinese)

  19. Li SJ (2006) An approach to accelerating innovative development of the lake science in China. Bull Chinese Acad Sci 21:399–405 (in Chinese with English abstract)

  20. Li RQ, Dong M, Zhao Y, Zhang LL, Cui QG, He WM (2007) Assessment of water quality and identification of pollution sources of plateau lakes in Yunnan (China). J Environ Qual 36:291–297

  21. Li SY, Gu S, Liu WZ, Han HY, Zhang QF (2008) Water quality in relation to land use and land cover in the upper Han River Basin, China. Catena 75:216–222

  22. Liu JY, Liu ML, Zhuang DF, Zhang ZX, Deng XZ (2003) Study on spatial pattern of land-use change in China during 1995–2000. Sci China Ser D-Earth Sci 46:373–384

  23. Liu WZ, Zhang QF, Liu GH (2010a) Lake eutrophication associated with geographic location, lake morphology and climate in China. Hydrobiologia 644:289–299

  24. Liu WZ, Zhang QF, Liu GH (2010b) Influences of watershed landscape composition and configuration on lake water quality in the Yangtze River basin of China. Hydrol Process, Online. doi:10.1002/hyp.8157

  25. Morrice JA, Danz NP, Regal RR, Kelly JR, Niemi GJ, Reavie ED et al (2008) Human influences on water quality in Great Lakes wetlands. Environ Manage 41:347–357

  26. Müller B, Lotter AF, Sturm M, Ammann A (1998) Influence of catchment quality and altitude on the water and sediment composition of 68 small lakes in central Europe. Aquat Sci 60:316–337

  27. Myers RH (1990) Classical and modern regression with applications, 2nd edn. Duxbury Press, Belmont

  28. Newman S, Reddy KR (1992) Sediment resuspension effects on alkaline phosphatase activity. Hydrobiologia 245:75–86

  29. Ngoye E, Machiwa JF (2004) The influence of land-use patterns in the Ruvu River watershed on water quality in the river system. Phys Chem Earth 29:1161–1166

  30. Nõges T (2009) Relationships between morphometry, geographic location and water quality parameters of European lakes. Hydrobiologia 633:33–43

  31. Omernik JM, Rohm CM, Lillie RA, Mesner N (1991) Usefulness of natural regions for lake management: analysis of variation among lakes in northwestern Wisconsin, USA. Environ Manage 15:281–293

  32. Pan YD, Herlihy A, Kaufmann P, Wigington J, van Sickle J, Moser T (2004) Linkages among land-use, water quality, physical habitat conditions and lotic diatom assemblages: a multi-spatial scale assessment. Hydrobiologia 515:59–73

  33. Parker BR, Vinebrooke RD, Schindler DW (2008) Recent climate extremes alter alpine lake ecosystems. Proc Nat Acad Sci U S A 105:12927–12931

  34. Rose S, Peters NE (2001) Effects of urbanization on streamflow in the Atlanta area (Georgia, USA): a comparative hydrological approach. Hydrol Process 15:1441–1457

  35. Sliva L, Williams DD (2001) Buffer zone versus whole catchment approaches to studying land use impact on river water quality. Water Res 35:3462–3472

  36. Statistical Bureau of Yunnan Province (SBYP), Survey Office of the National Bureau of Statistics in Yunnan Province (NBSYP) (2010) Yunnan Statistical Yearbook 2010. Yunnan People’s Electronic & Audio-Visual Press, Kunming (in Chinese)

  37. Steegen A, Govers G, Takken I, Nachtergaele J, Poesen J, Merckx R (2001) Factors controlling sediment and phosphorus export from two Belgian agricultural catchments. J Environ Qual 30:1249–1258

  38. Taranu ZE, Gregory-Eaves I (2008) Quantifying relationships among phosphorus, agriculture, and lake depth at an inter-regional scale. Ecosystems 11:715–725

  39. Uuemaa E, Roosaare J, Mander U (2005) Scale dependence of landscape metrics and their indicatory value for nutrient and organic matter losses from catchments. Ecol Indic 5:350–369

  40. Wang SM, Dou HS (1998) Lakes in China. China Science, Beijing (in Chinese)

  41. Wang ZL, Li YM, Zhang WL, Zhang HZ, Zhao P (2009) Study on nitrogen and phosphorus pollutants changes of main into-lake rivers for Kunming Danchi Lake during dry and rainy seasons. J Yunnan Agri Univ 24:729–733 (in Chinese with English abstract)

  42. Whitmore TJ, Brenner M, Jiang Z, Curtis JH, Moore AM, Engstrom DR (1997) Water quality and sediment geochemistry in lakes of Yunnan Province, southern China. Environ Geol 32:45–55

  43. Yuxi Environmental Protection Bureau (YEPB) (2006) Eleventh five-year plan of water pollution integrated control in Fuxianhu Lake’s watershed. Yuxi Environmental Protection Bureau, Yuxi (in Chinese)

  44. Zhang S, Liu J, Wei S, Gao J, Wang D, Zhang K (2006) Impact of aquaculture on eutrophication in Changshou Reservoir. Chin J Geochem 25:89–96

Download references


This work was supported by the Major State Basic Research Development Program of China (2008CB418006) and National Science Foundation of China (31100347). The land cover map was provided by the Environmental & Ecological Science Data Center for West China. We thank the Environmental Monitoring Center of Yunnan Province for assistance in the collection of water quality data.

Author information

Correspondence to Wenzhi Liu or Guihua Liu.

Additional information

Responsible editor: Zhihong Xu

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.


 (DOC 73 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Liu, W., Li, S., Bu, H. et al. Eutrophication in the Yunnan Plateau lakes: the influence of lake morphology, watershed land use, and socioeconomic factors. Environ Sci Pollut Res 19, 858–870 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-011-0616-z

Download citation


  • Cropland
  • Land use
  • Trophic state index
  • Water depth
  • Water quality