Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 22, Issue 13, pp 9951–9964 | Cite as

Historical accumulation of N and P and sources of organic matter and N in sediment in an agricultural reservoir in Northern China

  • Zhaokui Ni
  • Shengrui Wang
  • Zhaosheng Chu
  • Xiangcan Jin
Research Article


Agriculture has significantly intensified in Northern China since the 1980s. This intensification has caused a series of simultaneous lake ecological environment problems in this area. However, little is known about the role of agricultural intensification in historical nutrient dynamics and lake eutrophication processes. The Yanghe reservoir, a typical artificial reservoir characterized by high-yield grain production in Northern China, has been suffering from serious eutrophication and water quality deterioration. This study evaluates the effect of agricultural intensification on nutrient retention and source in the sediments using 210Pb and 137Cs dating techniques combined with stable C and N isotopes (δ13C, δ15N) and total organic carbon/total nitrogen, as well as total nitrogen (TN), total phosphorus (TP), and P fractions. Results suggested that agricultural intensification was keys to the accumulation of nutrients and was a source of organic matter (OM) and N in sediment for the past three decades. N and P pollution started in the 1980s and worsened from the 1990s. Good water quality status and steady sedimentary environment with low nutrient content (mean concentrations of TN and TP were 815 and 387 mg kg−1, respectively) were observed before the 1980s. Sediment OM was primarily derived from aquatic plants, whereas N was primarily derived from soil erosion and aquatic plants. However, water quality began to deteriorate while sediment nutrient content began to increase after the 1980s, with values of 1186 mg kg−1 for TN and 434 mg kg−1 for TP in 1989. Sediment OM was primarily derived from C3 (sweet potato) and aquatic plants, and the major sources of N were soil erosion, fertilizer, and sewage, which accompany the rapid development of agriculture in the watershed. Following the further growth of grain production and fertilizers, excessive external nutrient loading has resulted in dramatic water quality and ecosystem deterioration since 1990. The increasing rate of TN and TP contents was also augmented during these periods, reaching as high as 2624 and 846 mg kg−1 in surface sediment, respectively. In addition, sources of OM and N in sediment were similar to those in the 1980s, but the contribution of aquatic organic N in sediment has continued to increase (aquatic organic N that accounts for TN increased from 14.5 % before the 1980s to 48 % in 2007). This condition could be attributed to the impact of frequent “water bloom” and recession of aquatic plant due to worsening water pollution.


Sediment Pollution history Agriculture Eutrophication Northern China 



This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41173118, U1202235) and National high-level talents special support plan (For science and technology innovation talents to special support plan), for which we express our sincere appreciation.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zhaokui Ni
    • 1
    • 2
  • Shengrui Wang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Zhaosheng Chu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Xiangcan Jin
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Environmental Criteria and Risk AssessmentChinese Research Academy of Environmental SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.State Environmental Protection Key Laboratory for Lake Pollution Control, Research Center of Lake EnvironmentChinese Research Academy of Environmental SciencesBeijingChina

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