, Volume 373, Issue 0, pp 21–25 | Cite as

Mechanisms for internal loading of phosphorus in lakes

  • Kurt Pettersson


Lake sediments play an important role in the phosphorus metabolism in lakes. The impact depends on the tendencies to retain and to release phosphorus.The internal loading will often determine the eutrophication status of the lake and the time lag for recovery after reduction of the external loading. Internal loading is most important during the summer. The potential source of phosphorus in the surficial sediments is very large in comparison to the pools in the water column. This means that even if only a very small amount is released, it will have significant impact on the phosphorus concentration in the lake water. The distribution of phosphorus forms in sediments have been investigated since the 1950s. Generally, vertical profiles of sediment phosphorus content, expressed on dry weight basis, show an increasing total content towards the sediment surface. The vertical profile continues up into the water when looking at the particulate matter. A number of environmental factors are important in the mobilisation processes. Most studies indicate that sediment bacteria have a significant role in uptake, storage and release of phosphorus including anaerobic release of iron-bound phosphorus. Several phytoplankton species have resting stages overwintering on the sediment. When growth is induced, they leave their habitat in order to shift their life-form to a pelagic one. In Lake Erken the cyanobacteria Gloeotrichia echinulata has been shown to contribute significantly to the internal loading of phosphorus during the summer.

internal loading phosphorus fractionation 


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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1998

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  • Kurt Pettersson

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