Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 23, Issue 20, pp 21008–21019 | Cite as

Critical nutrient thresholds needed to control eutrophication and synergistic interactions between phosphorus and different nitrogen sources

  • Qinghui Zeng
  • Lihuan Qin
  • Linlin Bao
  • Yayong Li
  • Xuyong LiEmail author
Research Article


Eutrophication is one of the greatest threats to global freshwater ecosystems. The phytoplankton responses to nutrient inputs vary in different water bodies, so it is particularly important to determine the nutrient thresholds and synergistic interactions between nutrients in different freshwater ecosystems. Field sampling and bioassay experiments were conducted to determine the thresholds of soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP), nitrate-nitrogen (NO3-N), and ammonium-nitrogen (NH4-N) in Miyun Reservoir. A separate nutrient addition bioassay was designed to assess the synergistic interactions between these nutrients. Chlorophyll a (Chl a) concentrations were used to estimate phytoplankton biomass. The results showed the following: (1) nutrient threshold bioassay indicated that eutrophication thresholds of SRP, NO3-N, and NH4-N should be targeted at below 0.04 mg P L−1, 0.5 mg N L−1, and 0.3 mg N L−1, respectively, to limit the growth of phytoplankton. (2) The stimulatory effect of “NH4-N plus P” on phytoplankton biomass was greater than “NO3-N plus P” at the same N concentration, and “NH4-N plus NO3-N” did not show such associated stimulatory effect as “NH4-N plus P” or “NO3-N plus P”. (3) The average concentrations of total phosphorus (TP), NO3-N, and NH4-N in Miyun Reservior were 0.017 mg P L−1, 0.620 mg N L−1, and 0.143 mg N L−1, respectively. The reservoir-wide average Chl a is below 20 μg L−1 on an annual basis. (4) Ammonium was an important factor for the growth of phytoplankton and inputs of both NH4-N and NO3-N should be reduced to control bloom formation. Our findings imply that although P load reduction is important, appropriate reductions of all forms of N in watershed is recommended in the nutrient management strategy for Miyun Reservoir.


Nutrient threshold Synergistic interaction Multiple nutrient limitations Ammonium Eutrophication Bioassays 



This work was supported by the Major Science and Technology Program for Water Pollution Control and Treatment in China (2014ZX07203010), the Key Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (KZZD-EW-10-02) and Comprehensive Demonstration Construction of Key Technology of Ecological Security in Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Urban Agglomeration (2016YFC0503007).

Supplementary material

11356_2016_7321_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1 mb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 1059 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Qinghui Zeng
    • 1
    • 2
  • Lihuan Qin
    • 1
    • 2
  • Linlin Bao
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yayong Li
    • 1
    • 3
  • Xuyong Li
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Urban and Regional Ecology, Research Center for Eco-Environmental SciencesChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.College of Environment and PlanningHenan UniversityHenanPeople’s Republic of China

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