Internal phosphorus loading from sediments causes seasonal nitrogen limitation for harmful algal blooms

Shiming Ding, Musong Chen, Mengdan Gong, Xianfang Fan, Boqiang Qin, Hai Xu, Shuai Shuai Gao, Zengfeng Jin, Daniel C.W. Tsang, Chaosheng Zhang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

238 Citations (Scopus)


It is proposed that the internal loading of phosphorus (P) from sediments plays an important role in seasonal nitrogen (N) limitation for harmful algal blooms (HABs), although there is a lack of experimental evidence. In this study, an eutrophic bay from the large and shallow Lake Taihu was studied for investigating the contribution of internal P to N limitation over one-year field sampling (February 2016 to January 2017). A prebloom-bloom period was identified from February to August according to the increase in Chla concentration in the water column, during which the ratio of total N to total P (TN/TP) exponentially decreased with month from 43.4 to 7.4. High-resolution dialysis (HR-Peeper) and diffusive gradients in thin films (DGT) analysis showed large variations in the vertical distribution of mobile P (SRP and DGT-labile P) in sediments, resulting in the SRP diffusion flux at the sediment-water interface ranging from − 0.01 to 6.76 mg/m2/d (minus sign denotes downward flux). Significant and linear correlations existed between SRP and soluble Fe(II) concentrations in pore water, reflecting that the spatial-temporal variation in mobile P was controlled by microbe-mediated Fe redox cycling. Mass estimation showed that the cumulative flux of SRP from sediments accounted for 54% of the increase in TP observed in the water column during the prebloom-bloom period. These findings are supported by the significantly negative correlation (p < 0.01) observed between sediment SRP flux and water column TN/TP during the same period. Overall, these results provide solid evidence for the major role of internal P loading in causing N limitation during the prebloom-bloom period.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)872-884
Number of pages13
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018


  • Eutrophication
  • Harmful algal blooms
  • High-resolution sampling
  • Iron redox cycle
  • Lake sediment
  • Mobile phosphorus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


Dive into the research topics of 'Internal phosphorus loading from sediments causes seasonal nitrogen limitation for harmful algal blooms'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this