Estimation of the long-term nutrient budget and thresholds of regime shift for a large shallow lake in China

Xiangshen Kong, Lin Dong, Wei He, Qingmei Wang, Wolf M. Mooij, Fuliu Xu

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Abstract In this study, we apply an integrated empirical and mechanism approach to estimate a comprehensive long-term (1953–2012) total nitrogen (TN) and total phosphorus (TP) loading budget for the eutrophic Lake Chaohu in China. This budget is subsequently validated, firstly, by comparing with the available measured data in several years, and secondly, by model simulations for long-term nutrient dynamics using both Vollenweider (VW) model and dynamic nonlinear (DyN) model. Results show that the estimated nutrient budget is applicable for further evaluations. Surprisingly, nutrient loading from non-point sources (85% for TN and 77% for TP on average) is higher than expectation, suggesting the importance of nutrient flux from the soil in the basin. In addition, DyN model performs relatively better than VW model, which is attributed to both the additional sediment recycling process and the parameters adjusted by the Bayesian-based Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) method. DyN model further shows that the TP loading thresholds from the clear to turbid state (631.8 ± 290.16 t y−1) and from the turbid to clear state (546.0 ± 319.80 t y−1) are significantly different (p < 0.01). Nevertheless, the uncertainty ranges of the thresholds are largely overlapped, which is consistent with the results that the eutrophication of Lake Chaohu is more likely to be reversible (74.12%) than hysteretic (25.53%). The ecosystem of Lake Chaohu shifted from the clear to turbid state during late 1970s. For managers, approximately two-thirds of the current TP loading must be reduced for a shift back with substantial improvement in water quality. Because in practice the reduction of loading from a non-point source is very difficult and costly, additional methods beyond nutrient reduction, such as water level regulation, should be considered for the lake restoration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-244
Number of pages14
JournalEcological Indicators
Issue number0
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Lake Chaohu
  • Nutrient loading budget
  • Regime shift
  • Thresholds
  • Probability distribution
  • international


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