Phosphorus sources and demand during summer in a eutrophic lake


In pelagic systems, phytoplankton biomass may remain abundant or near equilibrium while concentrations of the limiting nutrient are below detection. In eutrophic lakes, it has been thought that episodic algal blooms are due to mixing events that break down this equilibrium by adding nutrients to the mixed layer. Alternatively, rapid rates of biotic recycling among primary producers and heterotrophic consumers could maintain high phytoplankton biomass, yet the recycling process has been difficult to observe in situ. Here we use free-water oxygen measurements and an associated metabolic model to infer rates of phosphorus (P) uptake and biotic mineralization in the epilimnion of a eutrophic lake. The rates of uptake and mineralization were compared to “external” sources of P such as loading and entrainment. Also, model results were assessed using sensitivity analysis. We found that the majority of phytoplankton P demand during the period of low P availability could be accounted for by biotic mineralization, but that it was important to consider the effects of entrainment in order to account fully for P uptake. These general results were relatively insensitive to model parameterization, though the relative C:P ratio of material taken up versus mineralized was an important consideration. This study integrates modeling and measurement tools that monitor ecosystem processes at finer temporal resolution than has previously been possible, complementing other studies that use experimental incubation and elemental tracers. Extension of this approach could enhance models that aim to integrate biological and physical processes in assessment of water quality and prediction of phytoplankton biomass.

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Correspondence to Amy M. Kamarainen.

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Received: 25 September 2008; revised manuscript accepted: 17 March 2009

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Kamarainen, A.M., Penczykowski, R.M., Van de Bogert, M.C. et al. Phosphorus sources and demand during summer in a eutrophic lake. Aquat. Sci. 71, 214–227 (2009).

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  • Ecosystem metabolism
  • entrainment
  • respiration
  • production
  • C:P ratio
  • phytoplankton bloom