Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 39, Issue 5, pp 1386–1402 | Cite as

Phosphorus Cycling in a Freshwater Estuary Impacted by Cyanobacterial Blooms

  • Jolita Petkuviene
  • Mindaugas Zilius
  • Irma Lubiene
  • Tomas Ruginis
  • Gianmarco Giordani
  • Arturas Razinkovas-Baziukas
  • Marco Bartoli


The availability of reactive phosphorus (P) may promote cyanobacterial blooms, a worldwide increasing phenomenon. Cyanobacteria may also regulate benthic P cycling through labile organic input to sediments, favouring reduced conditions and P release, ultimately acting as self-sustainment mechanism for the phytoplankton blooms. To analyse P–cyanobacteria feedbacks and compare external versus internal loads, we investigated P cycling in the Curonian Lagoon, a freshwater estuary with recurrent summer blooms. At two sites representing the dominant sediment types, we characterised P pools and mobility, via combined pore water analysis, calculation of diffusive exchanges and flux measurements via sediment core incubations. Annual P budgets were also calculated, to analyse the whole lagoon role as net sink or source. Muddy sediments, representing nearly 50 % of the lagoon surface, displayed higher P content if compared with sandy sediments, and most of this pool was reactive. The muddy site had consequently higher pore water dissolved inorganic phosphorus (DIP) concentrations maintaining high diffusive gradients. However, measured fluxes suggested that both sediment types were mostly P sinks except for a large DIP regeneration (nearly 30 μmol m−2 h−1) recorded at the muddy site during an intense cyanobacteria bloom. Such internal regeneration had the same order of magnitude as the annual external P load and may offset the net annual DIP sink role of the estuary. It may also prolong the duration of the bloom. Our results suggest that positive feedbacks can regulate N-fixing cyanobacteria blooms and internal P recycling, through either diffusive fluxes or sediment settling and resuspension.


Phosphorus Fluxes Cyanobacteria bloom Hypoxia P fractionation 



J. Petkuviene, M. Zilius, I. Lubiene, T. Ruginis and A. Razinkovas-Baziukas were supported by the project Water Masses Circulation Features in the Curonian Lagoon, Using Stable Isotope Tags and Finite Element Mode (CISOCUR) (No. VP1-3.1-ŠMM-07-K-02-086), G. Giordani by the NETBIOGEK project (No. MIP-12334) of the Research Council of Lithuania and M. Bartoli by the BONUS project Nutrient Cocktails in Coastal zones of the Baltic Sea (COCOA) (No. BONUS-2/2014). We kindly acknowledge Diana Vaiciute from the Klaipeda University for Chl-a analysis (in 2013). We gratefully thank the Lithuanian Marine Research Department of the Ministry of Environment for providing meteorological and Nemunas River discharge data. We acknowledge the two anonymous reviewers and the editor for their valuable comments.


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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jolita Petkuviene
    • 1
  • Mindaugas Zilius
    • 1
  • Irma Lubiene
    • 1
  • Tomas Ruginis
    • 1
  • Gianmarco Giordani
    • 2
    • 1
  • Arturas Razinkovas-Baziukas
    • 1
  • Marco Bartoli
    • 2
    • 1
  1. 1.Marine Science and Technology CenterKlaipeda UniversityKlaipedaLithuania
  2. 2.Department of Life SciencesUniversity of ParmaParmaItaly

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