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Factors that contributed to recent eutrophication of two Slovenian mountain lakes

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Abstract

Increased eutrophication was recently observed in the 5th (5J) and 6th (6J) Triglav Lakes, two remote Slovenian mountain lakes. Sediment phosphorus (P) pools were analysed and potential external P sources affecting the lakes (atmospheric deposition, terrestrial export and nearby hut) evaluated, to assess the effects of internal and external changes on the lakes. A sequential extraction procedure was used to quantify five P fractions from the sediments: adsorbed (NH4Cl–P), redox-sensitive (BD–P), aluminium- (NaOH–P) and calcium- (HCl–P) bound, and refractory organic (Res–P) P. Total phosphorus (TP) contents in surface sediment of 5J and 6J were 1430 and 641 µg P g−1 dry weight sediment (dw), respectively. TP varied with depth in 5J sediments, but displayed no discernible pattern, whereas it decreased steadily downcore in 6J. Contents of all P forms were distinctly higher in 5J than 6J, but their rank order and relative abundances were similar in the two lakes. Res–P was the most abundant P fraction, followed by HCl–P. Together, the two P forms accounted for nearly 80 and 90% of TP in 5J and 6J sediments, respectively. BD–P and NaOH–P were less abundant, with each fraction accounting for 3 to 9% of TP, whereas NH4Cl–P was least abundant. Atmospheric deposition and terrestrial export were substantial sources of P for the lakes. Delivery of the former was estimated to be at least 7.5 mg P m−2 yr−1 and the latter around 20 mg P m−2 yr−1. We concluded that P was not retained in the catchment effectively, likely because of only slightly acidic soil pH (5.9), relatively low aluminium content and high organic matter content (53%) in soils, resulting in higher vulnerability of the studied lakes to eutrophication. The mountain hut could also be a significant source of P for the lakes. Each year, it could potentially contribute ~12 kg of soluble P to the environment, but the true impact of the hut on lake trophic status remains unclear.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank colleagues and students at the Department of Geology, Jožef Stefan Institute, the National Institute of Biology and the Slovenian Environment Agency, for their support, help and fruitful discussions both in the field and the laboratory. This study was performed as part of research programmes P1-0143, P1-0195, P1-0237 and I0-0004, funded by the Slovenian Research Agency. We are grateful to two anonymous reviewers and the editors for their helpful comments on earlier versions of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Gregor Muri.

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Muri, G., Čermelj, B., Jaćimović, R. et al. Factors that contributed to recent eutrophication of two Slovenian mountain lakes. J Paleolimnol 59, 411–426 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10933-017-9996-5

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