Skip to main content

Mechanism and control of lake eutrophication


A review about lake naturally eutrophicating, the internal loading of nutrients from lake sediment as well as the mechanism of algal blooms and the control practices was made, especially the eutrophication problem of shallow lakes since seventy percent of fresh water lakes in China are shallow lakes. It was found that shallow lakes are apt toward eutrophication than deep lakes. Without any influences of human activity, shallow lakes in the middle and lower reaches of Yangtze River are still easily eutrophicated, which may be owing to the effects of flood in this area. In shallow lakes, sediments are frequently disturbed by wind-wave and resuspended, which result in huge nutrients release to overlying water. This may be the major reason for higher internal loading of nutrients in shallow lakes than in deep lakes. Algal bloom is an extreme response of lake ecosystem to the eutrophication. Appearance of algal blooms is related to physical condition of lakes, such as underwater radiation (or transparency), temperature, and hydrodynamic conditions, or related to geochemical conditions of lakes, like concentrations of nutrients and ratio of nitrogen to phosphorus, as well as the physiological advantage of cyanobacteria such as vacuole for moving towards the radiant energy-rich zone and the mycosporine-like amino acids (MAAs) for resisting the harm of ultraviolet radiation. In shallow lakes, these advantages of cyanobacteria are favorable in the competition than in deep lakes. Also being the shallowness, it is more difficult to reduce nutrient loading and to control algae blooms in shallow lakes. For the control of eutrophication, people should follow the sequence from pollution sources control, ecological restoration to catchment management. To control the internal nutrient release, physical, chemical, biological techniques, and even bionic techniques could be selected. The idea of ecological restoration for a eutrophic lake is to shift the ecosystem from phytoplankton-dominant state to macrophyte-dominant state. To realize the shift of ecosystem state, environmental condition improvement is the fundamental work. Nowadays, we should do more work on environmental condition improvement than on planting of macrophytes since we are lack of the knowledge about the relationship between macrophyte and lake ecosystem. Emphasizing the macrophyte planting, therefore, has blindness at present. Because all lakes have different characteristics of environment and ecosystem, applicable lake harness techniques should be selected based on the distinct ecosystem types and environmental problems.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. 1

    Wang S M, Dou H S (eds.) Lake Annals of China (in Chinese) Beijing: Science Press, 1998

    Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Qin B Q. Approaches to mechanisms and control of eutrophication of shallow lakes in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River. J Lake Sci (in Chinese with English abstract), 2002, 14(3): 193–202

    Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    Leavitt P R, Hann B J, Smol J P, et al. Paleolomnological analysis of whole lake experiments an overview of results from Experimental Lakes Area Lake 227. Canadian J Fish Aquatic Sci, 1994, 51: 2322–2332

    Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Stockner J G, Benson W W. The succession of diatom assemblages in the recent sediment of Lake Washington. Limnology and Oceanography, 1967, 12: 513–532

    Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Wetzel R G. Limnology, Lake and River Ecosystems, 3th ed. London: Academy Press, 2001, 245–260

    Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Shen J, Zhang Z L, Sun Q Y, et al. Character and paleoenvironmental significance of the pigment and organic δ13C in sediments of Nansihu Lake. J Lake Sci (in Chinese with English abstract), 1998, 10(2): 17–22

    Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    Yang X D, Wang S M, Shen J, et al. Lacustrine environment responses to human activities in the past 300 years in Longgan Lake catchment, southeast China. Sci China Ser D-Earth Sci, 2002, 45(8): 709–718

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8

    Yang X D, Shen J, Dong X H, et al. Relationship between lake trophic status and ecosystem in lakes from middle and lower reaches in Yangtze River. Sci China Ser D-Earth Sci, 2006, 36(suppl II): 51–61

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9

    Dong X H, Yang X D, Pan H X. Distribution of modern lake sediment diatoms in the middle and lower reaches of Yangtze River catchment. Journal of Lake Sciences (in Chinese with English abstract), 2004, 16(4): 298–304

    Google Scholar 

  10. 10

    Jeppesen E, Jensen J P, Kristensen P, et al. Fish manipulation as a lake restoration tool in shallow, eutrophic temperate lakes 1: cross-analysis of three Danish case-studies. Hydrobiologia, 1990, 61: 205–218

    Google Scholar 

  11. 11

    Havens K E, Jin K R, Rodusky A J, et al. Humcane effects on a shallow lake ecosystem and its response to a controlled manipulation of water level. The Scientific World, 2001, 1: 44–70

    Google Scholar 

  12. 12

    Isirimah N O, Keeney D R, Dettmann. Nitrogen cycling in Lake Wingra. Journal of Environmental Quality, 1976, 5: 182–188

    Google Scholar 

  13. 13

    Xie L, Xie P. Long-term (1956–1999) dynamics of phosphorus in a shallow, subtropical Chinese lake with the possible effects of cyanobacterial blooms. Water Res, 2002, 36: 343–349

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14

    Vollenweider, R A. Scientific Fundamentals of the Eutrophication of Lakes and Flowing Waters, with Particular Reference to Nitrogen and Phosphorus as Factors in Eutrophication. OECD Report No. DAS/CSI/68.27, Paris, 1968, 192; Annex, 21; Bibliography, 61

  15. 15

    Mortimer C H. Chemical Exchanges between Sediments and Water in the Great Lakes — Speculations on probable regulatory mechanisms. Limnology and Oceanography, 1971, 16(2): 387–404

    Google Scholar 

  16. 16

    Moore P A, Reddy K R. Role of Eh and pH on phosphorus geochemistry in sediments of Lake Okeechobee, Florida. J Environ Quality, 1994, 23: 955–964

    Google Scholar 

  17. 17

    Wang T J, Su R, Jin X C, et al. The effects to water quality of phosphorus loading and its release in the sediments of urban eutrophic lakes. Res Environ Sci (in Chinese with English abstract), 1994, 7(4): 12–19

    Google Scholar 

  18. 18

    Wang X R, Hua Z Z, Xu L, et al. The effects of the environmental conditions on phosphorus release in lake sediments. Environmental Chemistry (in Chinese with English abstract), 1996, 15(1): 15–19

    Google Scholar 

  19. 19

    Xie P. Biological mechanisms driving the seasonal changes in the internal loading of phosphorus in shallow lakes. Sci China Ser D-Earth Sci, 2006, 36(suppl II): 14–27

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20

    Qin B Q, Hu W P, Chen W M (eds) Processes and Mechanisms of Water Environmental Evolvement of Lake Taihu (in Chinese). Beijing: Science Press, 2004

    Google Scholar 

  21. 21

    Qin B Q, Hu W P, Gao G. Dynamics of sediment resuspension and the conceptual schema of nutrient release in large shallow lake Taihu, China Chin Sci Bull, 2004, 49(1): 54–64

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22

    Zhu G W, Qin B Q, Gao G. Direct evidence of phosphorus outbreak release from sediment to overlying water in a large shallow lake caused by strong wind. Chin Sci Bull, 2005, 50(6): 577–582

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23

    Carrick H J, Aldridge F J, Schelske C L. Wind influences phytoplankton biomass and composition in a shallow, productive lake. Limnology and Oceanography, 1993, 38: 1179–1192

    Google Scholar 

  24. 24

    Reddy K R, Fisher M M, Ivanoff D. Resuspension and diffusive flux of nitrogen and phosphorus in a hypereutrophic lake. J Environ Quality, 1996, 25: 363–371

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25

    Søndergaard M, Kristensen P, Jeppesen E. Phosphorus release from resuspended sediment in the shallow and wind-exposed Lake Arreso, Denmark. Hydrobiologia, 1992, 228: 91–99

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. 26

    Robarts R D, Waiser M J, Hadas O, et al. Relaxation of phosphorus limitation due to typhoon-induced mixing in two morphologically distinct basins of Lake Biwa, Japan. Limn Oceano, 1998, 43(6): 1023–1035

    Google Scholar 

  27. 27

    Ccanfield D E Jr, Hoyer M V. The eutrophication of Lake Okeechobee. Lake Reser Manag, 1988, 4: 91–99

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. 28

    Qin B Q, Zhu G W. The nutrient forms, cycling and exchange flux in the sediment and overlying water system in lakes from the middle and lower reaches of Yangtze River (Yangtze River). Sci China Ser D-Earth Sci, 2006, 36(suppl II): 1–13

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. 29

    Bauerle E, Gaedke U. Advance in Limnology 53. Lake Constance Characterization of an Ecosystem in Transition. Advance in Limnology, 1998, 53: 610

    Google Scholar 

  30. 30

    Gude H, Rossknecht H, Wagner, Anthropogenic impacts on the trophic state of Lake Constance during 20th century. Arch. Hydrobiol. Advances in Limnology, 1998, 53: 85–108

    Google Scholar 

  31. 31

    Jeppesen E, Søndergaard M, Jensen J P, et al. Restoration of Eutrophic Lakes: a Global Perspective. In: Kumagai M, Vincent M F, eds. Freshwater Management Global vs Local Perspectives. Tokyo: Springer-Verlag, 2003, 135–150

    Google Scholar 

  32. 32

    Jeppesen E, Søndergaard M, Jensen J P, et al. Cascading trophic interactions from fish to bacteria and nutrient after reducing sewage loading: a 18-year study of shallow eutrophic lake. Ecosystem, 1998, 1: 250–267

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. 33

    Søndergaard M, Jensen J P, Jeppesen E. Internal phosphorus loading in a shallow eutrophic Danish lake. Hydrobiologia, 1999, 408/409: 145–152

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. 34

    Bodelier P L E, Meima-Franke M, Zwart G, et al. New DGGE strategies for the analyses of methanotrophic microbial communities using different combinations of existing 16S rRNA-based primers. FEMS Microbio Eco, 2005, 52(2): 163–174

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. 35

    Jin X C, Tu Q Y. Lake Eutrophication in China (in Chinese). Beijing: Chinese Environmental Science Press, 1995

    Google Scholar 

  36. 36

    Rohrlack T, Dittmann E, Henning M, et al. Role of Microcystins in poisoning and food ingestion inhibition of Daphnia galeata caused by the cyanobacterium Nicrocysus aeruginosa. Applied Environ Microbio, 1999, (65): 737–739

  37. 37

    Zhang Y L, Qin B Q, Chen W M, et al. Experimental study on underwater light intensity and primary productivity caused by variation of total suspended matter. Advance in Water Science (in Chinese with English abstract), 2004, 15(5): 615–620

    Google Scholar 

  38. 38

    Paerl H W. Nuisance phytoplankton blooms in coastal, estuarine, and inland waters. Limn Oceano, 1988, 33(4): 823–847

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. 39

    Zhang Y L, Qin B Q, Chen W M Primary production and photosynthetic parameters under simulated water current regimes. Acta Ecologica Sinica (in Chinese with English abstract), 2004, 24(8): 1808–1815

    Google Scholar 

  40. 40

    Smith V H. Low nitrogen to phosphorus ratios favor dominance by blue-green algae in lake phytoplankton. Science, 1983, 221: 669–671

    Google Scholar 

  41. 41

    Xie L Q, Xie P, Li S X, et al. The low TN:TP ratio, a cause or a result of Microcystis blooms? Water Res, 2003, 37:2073–2080

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. 42

    Tang H J. Ecological studies on phytoplankton of the shallow, eutrophic Lake Donghu, Dissertation for Doctoral Degree. Institute of Hydrobiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wuhan. 2002

    Google Scholar 

  43. 43

    Shapiro J, Lamarra V, Lynch M. Biomanipulation: an ecosystem approach to lake restoration. In: Brezonik P L, Fox J L, eds. Proceedings of a Symposium on Water Quality Management through Biological Control. Univ Fla Gainesville, 1975: 85–69

  44. 44

    Henrikson L, Nyman H G, Oscarson H, et al. Trophic changes without change in the external nutrient loading. Hydrobiologia, 1980, 68: 257–263

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. 45

    Shapiro J, Wright D I, Lake restoration by biomanipulation: Round Lake, Minnesota, the first two years. Freshwater Biology, 1984, 14: 371–383

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. 46

    Shapiro J. Biomanipulation the next phase — making it stable. Hydrobiologia, 1990, 200/201: 13–27

    Google Scholar 

  47. 47

    Hansson L A, Annadotter H, Bergman E, et al. Biomanipulation as an application of food chain theory: constraints, synthesis and recommendations for temperate lakes. Ecosystems, 1998, 1: 558–574

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. 48

    Drenner R, Hambright D. Review Biomanipulation of fish assemblages as a lake restoration technique. Arch Hydrobiol, 1999, 146: 129–165

    Google Scholar 

  49. 49

    Rohrlack T, Dittmann E, Henning M, et al. Role of Microcystins in poisoning and food ingestion inhibition of Daphnia galeata caused by the cyanobacterium Microcystis aeruginosa. Applied Environ Microbiol, 1999, 65: 737–739

    Google Scholar 

  50. 50

    Carpenter S R, Christensen D L, Cole J J, et al. Biological control of eutrophication in lakes. Environ Sci Technol, 1995, 29:784–786

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. 51

    Kobayashi T, Church A, Hardiman S, et al. Grazing by a resident macrozooplankton community and non-resident Daphnia carinata King: A preliminary in situ incubation study. Lakes and Reservoirs: Research and Management, 1998, 3: 193–203

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. 52

    Xie P, Liu J K. Practical success of biomanipulation using filter-feeding fish to control cyanobacterial blooms. The Scientific World, 2001, 1: 337–356

    Google Scholar 

  53. 53

    Liu J K, Xie P. Direct control of microcystis bloom through the use of planktivorous carp — closure experiments and lake fishery practice. Ecol Sci (in Chinese with English abstract), 2003, 22(3): 193–196

    Google Scholar 

  54. 54

    Xie P. Silver Carp and Bighead, and Their Use in the Control of Algal Blooms (in Chinese with English abstract). Beijing: Science Press, 2003

    Google Scholar 

  55. 55

    Padisak J, Reynolds C S. Selection of phytoplankton associations in Lake Balaton, Hungary, in response to eutrophication and restoration measures, with special reference to cyanoprokaryotes. Hydrobiologia, 1998, 384: 41–53

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. 56

    Nixdorf B, Deneke R. Why “Very shallow” lakes are more successful opposing reduced nutrients loads. Hydrobiologia, 1997, 342/343: 269–284

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. 57

    Kopacek J, Hejzlar J, Borovec J, et al. Phosphorus inactivation by aluminum in the water column and sediments: Lowering of in-lake phosphorus availability in an acidified watershed-lake ecosystem. Limn Oceano, 2000, 45(1): 212–225

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. 58

    Wauer G, Gonsiorczyk T, Kretschmer K, et al. Sediment treatment with a nitrate-storing compound to reduce phosphorus release. Water Res, 2005, 39(2–3): 494–500

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. 59

    Walpersdorf E, Neumann T, Stuben D. Efficiency of natural calcite precipitation compared to lake marl application used for water quality improvement in an eutrophic lake. Applied Geochem, 2004, 19(11): 1687–1698

    Article  Google Scholar 

  60. 60

    Reitzel K, Hansen J, Jensen H S, et al. Testing aluminum addition as a tool for lake restoration in shallow, eutrophic Lake Sonderby, Denmark. Hydrobiologia, 2003, 506(1–3): 781–787

    Article  Google Scholar 

  61. 61

    Deppe T, Benndorf J. Phosphorus reduction in a shallow hypereutrophic reservoir by in-lake dosage of ferrous iron. Water Res, 2002, 36(18): 4525–4534

    Article  Google Scholar 

  62. 62

    Scheffer M. Ecology of Shallow Lakes. Dordretcht Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1998, 1–313

  63. 63

    Fan C X, Zhang L, Wang J J, et al. Processes and mechanism of effects of sludge dredging on internal source release in lakes. Chin Sci Bull, 2004, 49(17): 1853–1859

    Article  Google Scholar 

  64. 64

    Qin B Q, Zhu G W, Zhang L, et al. Estimation of internal nutrient release in large shallow Lake Taihu, China. Sci China Ser D-Earth Sci, 2006, 36(suppl. II): 38–50

    Article  Google Scholar 

  65. 65

    Bachmann R W, Hoyer M V, Canfield Jr D E. The potential for wave disturbance in shallow Florida lakes. Journal of Lake and Reservoir Management, 2000, 16: 281–291

    Google Scholar 

  66. 66

    Schauser I, Lewandowski J, Hupfer M. Decision support for the selection of an appropriate in-lake measure to influence the phosphorus retention in sediments. Water Res, 2003, 37: 801–812

    Article  Google Scholar 

  67. 67

    Li Z K, Pu P M. Purification of lake water by immobilized nitrobacteria denitrifying bacteria. Journal of Lake Sciences (in Chinese with English abstract), 2000, 12(2): 119–123

    Google Scholar 

  68. 68

    Li X M, Yang Z Y, Jian S G, et al. Control of algae bloom in eutrophic water by effective microorganisms. Acta Scientiarum Naturalium Universitatis Sunyatseni (in Chinese with English abstract), 2000, 39(1): 81–85

    Google Scholar 

  69. 69

    Jobgen A M, Palm A, Melkonian M. Phosphorus removal from eutrophic lakes using periphyton on submerged artificial substrata. Hydrobiologia, 2004, 528(1–3): 123–142

    Article  Google Scholar 

  70. 70

    Liu S Z, Lin D J, Tang S J, et al. Purification of eutrophic wastewater by Cyperus alternifolius, Coleus blumei, and Jasminum sambac planted in a floating phytoremediation system. Chinese J Appl Ecol (in Chinese with English abstract), 2004, 15(7): 1261–1265

    Google Scholar 

  71. 71

    Li X N, Lv X W, Song H L. Purification technique applied in eutrophic water in ecological enclosure. In Proceeding of Techniques for Water Pollution Control and Ecological Eestoration in China, Hangzhou (in Chinese with English abstract) 2004, 257–262

  72. 72

    Ji R P, Li X N, Lv X W, et al. Research about the microbes concentrated by artificial medium in water purifying experiment in Meiliang Bay, Lake Taihu. In: Proceeding of Techniques for Water Pollution Control and Ecological Eestoration in China, Hangzhou (in Chinese with English abstract). 2004, 120–124

  73. 73

    Mehner T, Benndorf J, Kasprzak P, et al. Biomanipulation of lake ecosystems: successful applications and expanding complexity in the underlying science. Freshwater Biology, 2002, 47(12): 2453–2465

    Article  Google Scholar 

  74. 74

    Meijer M L, de Boois I, Schieffer M, et al. Biomanipulation in shallow lakes in The Netherlands: an evaluation of 18 case studies. Hydrobiologia, 1999, 409: 13–30

    Article  Google Scholar 

  75. 75

    Drenner R W, Day D J, Basham S J, et al. Ecological water treatment system for removal of phosphorus and nitrogen from polluted water. Biological Application, 1997, 7(2): 381–391

    Article  Google Scholar 

  76. 76

    Scheffer M, Carpenter S, Foley J, et al. Catastrophic shifts in ecosystems. Nature, 2001, 413: 591–596

    Article  Google Scholar 

  77. 77

    Meijer M L. Biomanipulation in the Netherlands — 15 Years of Experience. Wageningen: University of Wageningen, 2000, 1–208

    Google Scholar 

  78. 78

    Qin B Q, Gao G, Hu W P, et al. Reflections on the theory and practice of shallow lake ecosystem restoration. Journal of Lake Sciences (in Chinese with English abstract), 2005, 17(1): 9–16.

    Google Scholar 

  79. 79

    Qin B Q, Song Y Z, Gao G. The role of periphytes in the shift between macrophyte and phytoplankton dominated systems in a shallow, eutrophic lake (Lake Taihu, China). Sci China Ser C-Life Sci, 2006, in press

  80. 80

    Mitchell S F, Hamilton D P, MacGibbon W S, et al. Interrelations between phytoplankton, submerged macrophytes, black swans (Cygnus atratus) and zooplankton in a shallow New Zealand lake. Internationale Revue der Gesamten Hydrobiologie, 1988, 73, 145–170

    Google Scholar 

  81. 81

    McKinnon S L, Mitchell S F. Eutrophication and black swan (Cygnus atratus) populations tests of two simple relationship. Hydrobiologia, 1994, 279/280: 163–170

    Article  Google Scholar 

  82. 82

    Hamilton D P, Mitchell S F. An empirical model for sediment resuspension in shallow lakes. Hydrobiologia, 1996, 317: 209–220

    Article  Google Scholar 

  83. 83

    Wallsten M, Forsgren P O. The effects of increased water level on the aquatic macrophytes. Journal of Aquatic Plant Management, 1989, 27: 32–37

    Google Scholar 

  84. 84

    Bengtsson L, Hellstrom T. Wind-induced resuspension in a small shallow lake. Hydrobiologia, 1992, 241: 163–172

    Google Scholar 

  85. 85

    Engel S, Nichols S A. Aquatic macrophyte growth in a turbid windswept lake. Journal of Freshwater Ecology, 1994, 9: 97–109

    Google Scholar 

  86. 86

    Van Donk E, Grimm M P, Gulati R D, et al. Whole-lake food web manipulation as a means to study community interactions in a small ecosystem. Hydrobiologia, 1990, 200/201: 275–290

    Google Scholar 

  87. 87

    Van Donk E, Gulati R D, Iedema A, et al. Macrophyte related shifts in the nitrogen and phosphorus contents of the different trophic levels in a biomanipulated shallow lake. Hydrobiologia, 1993, 19–26

  88. 88

    Chen H D, Impact of aquaculture on the ecosystem, the Donghu Lake, Wuhan. Acta Hydrobiologica Sinica (in Chinese), 1989, 13(4): 359–368

    Google Scholar 

  89. 89

    Pu P M, Hu W P, Pang Y, et al. A physico-ecological engineering experiment for purifying raw water quality in a lake. Journal of Lake Sciences (in Chinese with English abstract), 1997, 9(2): 159–167

    Google Scholar 

  90. 90

    Li W C. Ecological restoration of shallow, eutrophic lakes—Experimental studies on the recovery of aquatic vegetation in Wuli Lake. Journal of Lake Sciences (in Chinese with English abstract), 1996, 8(suppl.): 1–10

    Google Scholar 

  91. 91

    Hu W P. Experimental study on ecosystem restoration and water quality purification of lake. In: Qin B Q, Hu W P, Chen W M, eds. Processes and Mechanisms of Water Environmental Evolvement of Lake Taihu (in Chinese). Beijing: Science Press, 2004, 328–330

    Google Scholar 

  92. 92

    Pu P M, Wang G X, Li Z K, et al. Degradation of healthy aqua-ecosystem and its remediation: theory, technology and application. Journal of Lake Sciences (in Chinese with English abstract), 2001, 13(3): 193–203

    Google Scholar 

  93. 93

    Carpenter S, Caraco N F, Correll D L, et al. Nonpoint Pollution of Surface Waters with Phosphorus and Nitrogen. Issue in Ecology, 1998, 3: 1–12

    Google Scholar 

  94. 94

    Harvey R, Havens K, et al. Lake Okeechobee Action Plan Lake Okeechobee Issue Team for the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Working Group, December, 1999, 1–44

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Qin Boqiang.

About this article

Cite this article

Qin, B., Yang, L., Chen, F. et al. Mechanism and control of lake eutrophication. CHINESE SCI BULL 51, 2401–2412 (2006).

Download citation


  • lake eutrophication
  • trophic history
  • shallow lakes
  • internal loading control
  • ecological restoration