Fighting internal phosphorus loading: An evaluation of the large scale application of gradual Fe-addition to a shallow peat lake

Anne Immers, E.S. Bakker, Ellen Van Donk, G. Ter Heerdt, J.J.M. Geurts, S.A.J. Declerck

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Abatement of external phosphorus (P) loading and biomanipulation are measures that are often applied with the aim to restore a macrophyte dominated clearwater state in turbid, anthropogenically eutrophied lakes. The recovery of such lakes, however, is often hampered by ‘internal eutrophication’, as a result of the release of historically accumulated P from the sediment into the water column. One way to combat this internal P loading is by adding iron (Fe) into the lake, which naturally binds to phosphate. Although studied in the laboratory or mesocosms, the effects of iron addition on a whole-lake scale are largely
unknown. In this study we therefore compiled lake monitoring data to evaluate the effect of a gradual dose of 33 g Fe m2 on the water quality and biotic communities (phytoplankton, zooplankton and macrophytes) of Lake Terra Nova. During and after the Fe-addition, we also carried out assays to evaluate the effect of the Fe-addition on sediment P-release rates. Lake Terra Nova is a eutrophied, shallow peaty lake that has been subjected to biomanipulation measures for 10 years.
The large scale addition of iron during 2010 and 2011 resulted in a substantial reduction of dissolved P, suspended matter (SM), phytoplankton biomass and relative Cyanobacterial biomass, whereas macrophytes reappeared. Fe-addition also resulted in strongly reduced sediment P-mobilisation rates.
Nevertheless, reductions of water column TP in response to the Fe-addition were short-lived. This discrepancy between the observed TP-levels in the water column and sediment P-release rates could indicate that sustained loading with external P and interactions of chemical compounds with Fe may jeopardize long term restoration success by depleting the water column reservoir of reactive Fe. Ecological processes can in addition enhance this process by shunting P from the sediment to the water column.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-89
JournalEcological Engineering
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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