The influence of water quality and sediment geochemistry on the horizontal and vertical distribution of phosphorus and nitrogen in sediments of a large, shallow lake

Research paper by Dennis Trolle, Guangwei Zhu, David Hamilton, Liancong Luo, Chris McBride, Lu Zhang

Indexed on: 04 Feb '09Published on: 04 Feb '09Published in: Hydrobiologia


Distinct horizontal water column concentration gradients of nutrients and chlorophyll a (Chl a) occur within large, shallow, eutrophic Lake Taihu, China. Concentrations are high in the north, where some of the major polluted tributaries enter the lake, and relatively low in the south, where macrophytes generally are abundant. It is not clear, however, whether these water column concentration gradients are similarly reflected in spatial heterogeneity of nutrient concentrations within the bottom sediments. The main objective of this study was therefore to test if horizontal and vertical variations in the phosphorus and nitrogen content in bottom sediments of Lake Taihu are significantly related to (1) horizontal variations in overlying water column nutrient concentrations and (2) other sediment geochemical constituents. We measured the concentration of total phosphorus (TP) and total nitrogen (TN) in surficial sediments (0–2 cm) and TP, TN and Chl a concentrations in water column samples, collected from 32 sites in 2005. In 2006 sediment, TP, TN, carbon, iron and manganese concentrations were measured vertically at 2 cm intervals, extending to a depth of approximately 20 cm, at an additional eight sites. Linear correlation analysis revealed that surficial sediment TP concentrations across the 32 stations were related significantly, though weakly, to annual mean water column concentrations of TP, TN as well as Chl a. Correlations of surficial sediment TN with water column variables were, however, not significant (P > 0.05). Amongst the geochemical variables tested, the vertical variability of sediment TP concentrations was most strongly related to sediment manganese and carbon concentrations. A multiple stepwise linear regression revealed that the combination of sediment manganese and carbon concentrations explained 91% of the horizontal variability in sediment TP concentrations and 65% of the vertical variability.