Lake restoration time of Lake Taibai (China): a case study based on paleolimnology and ecosystem modeling

Abstract

Reducing excessive external nutrient loading is in principle the first adaptive management against eutrophication, whereas little is known about the recovery time of such intervention, especially in the context of global warming. Here, we use an ensemble approach of paleolimnological records and modeling PCLake to evaluate the recovery time of Lake Taibai, China under diverse combinations of nutrient reduction and climate change scenarios. The model was calibrated for seven sensitive parameters and further validated using the total phosphorus (TP) concentrations in sediment cores reconstructed using a diatom-TP transfer function. The paleolimnological records show that species indicative of eutrophic conditions and the diatom-inferred TP (DI-TP) were low before the 1980s and slightly increased thereafter. The calibrated model not only captures the dynamics of TP concentrations but also performs well in identifying the regime shift between the 2 alternative stable states of the lake: macrophyte-dominated (clear) and algae-dominated (turbid) states. The scenarios results suggest that lake restoration (from turbid to clear state) would take 10–20 years with an annual nutrient loading (both N and P) reduction rate of 15–25% from 2019. Meanwhile, global warming would impede the effectiveness of nutrient reduction by not only increasing the restoration time but also decreasing the vegetation restoration level (as indicated by vegetation dry weight in lake water) and critical nutrient loading for re-oligotrophication. Our results imply that in the long run, nutrient loading reduction measurement for sustainable lake restoration should be adjusted following temperature changes. The present study highlights the feasibility and relevance of a novel methodology using paleolimnological records for model calibration and projections. The modeling approach presented here may provide a better understanding and critical implications of the long-term dynamics and future restoration of Lake Taibai and other similar shallow lake ecosystems.

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Acknowledgements

The work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC, 41530753, 41621002), the National Key R&D Program of China (2017YFA0605203) and the Jiangsu Collaborative Innovation Center for Climate Change, China. R.W. acknowledges the financial support of the Youth Innovation Promotion Association of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (2017364).

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Correspondence to Rong Wang.

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Qin, B., Kong, X., Wang, R. et al. Lake restoration time of Lake Taibai (China): a case study based on paleolimnology and ecosystem modeling. J Paleolimnol (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10933-020-00165-7

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Keywords

  • Lake eutrophication
  • Paleolimnology
  • PCLake
  • Climate change
  • Regime shift
  • Lake Taibai