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Estimates of long-term water total phosphorus (TP) concentrations in three large shallow lakes in the Yangtze River basin, China

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The shallow lakes in the eastern China developed on alluvial plains with high-nutrient sediments, and most overflow into the Yangtze River with short hydraulic residence times, whereas they become eutrophic over long time periods. Assuming strong responses to hydrogeological changes in the basin, we attempted to determine the dynamic eutrophication history of these lakes. Although evaluation models for internal total phosphorus (TP) loading are widely used for deep lakes in Europe and North America, the accuracy of these models for shallow lakes that have smaller water volumes controlled by the geometrical morphology and greater basin area of alluvial plains is unknown. To describe the magnitude of changes in velocity of trophic state for the studied shallow lakes, we first evaluated the P retention model in relation to the major forces driving lake morphology, basin climate, and external discharge and then used the model to estimate changes in TP in three large shallow lakes (Taihu, Chao, and Poyang) over 60 years (1950–2009 AD). The observed levels of TP were verified against the relative error of the three lakes (<6.43 %) and Nash-Sutcliffe coefficients (0.67–0.75). The results showed that the predicted TP concentrations largely increased with hydraulic residence time, especially in extreme drought years, with a generally rising trend in trophic status. The simulated trophic state index showed that lakes Taihu and Poyang became eutrophic in the 1990s, whereas Lake Chao became eutrophic in the 1980s; lakes Taihu and Chao ultimately became hypereutrophic in the 2000s. The analysis suggested that the tropic status of the shallow lakes was affected by both the hydroclimate and geological sedimentation of the Yangtze River basin. This work will contribute to the development of an internal P loading model for further evaluating trophic states.

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We would like to thank the Taihu Laboratory for Lake Ecosystem Research (TLLER) for providing the lake meteorological data and pleasant collaboration. We also acknowledge Jianming Deng and Jian Zhou for their advice on the writing of the manuscript. This work was financially supported by the Chinese National Science Foundation (No. 41230744), Major Projects on Control and Rectification of Water Body Pollution (No. 2012ZX07101-010), Global Change Research Programs of the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology (No. 2012CB956103), and Sino-Finland Collaboration Project of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (No. GJHZ1214).

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Correspondence to Boqiang Qin.

Additional information

Responsible editor: Henner Hollert

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Table S1

Summary of the geographic location, lake morphology, basin morphology, and climate variables of the lakes in this study. (DOCX 13 kb)

Table S2

Main data sources used in the study. (DOCX 15 kb)

Table S3

The amounts of phosphorus sedimentation and release in the lakes in this study. (DOCX 12 kb)

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Wu, P., Qin, B. & Yu, G. Estimates of long-term water total phosphorus (TP) concentrations in three large shallow lakes in the Yangtze River basin, China. Environ Sci Pollut Res 23, 4938–4948 (2016).

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  • Phosphorus-retention model
  • External phosphorus load
  • Yangtze plains
  • Shallow lake
  • Hydrology-sedimentology
  • Hydraulic residence time