Inland Waters, Vol 6, No 2 (2016)

Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Eutrophication in Streams

Walter Dodds, Val H Smith
Pages: 155-164


Flowing waters receive substantial nutrient inputs, including both nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P), in many parts of the world. Eutrophication science for rivers and streams has unfortunately lagged behind that for lakes, and results from lakes might inform those interested in stream eutrophication. A key controversy in lake eutrophication science is the relative importance of controlling P and N in water quality management, and we are interested how the science of this controversy transfers to flowing waters. A literature review indicates (1) stream benthic chlorophyll is significantly correlated to both total N and total P in the water column, with both nutrients explaining more variance than either considered alone; (2) nutrients have increased substantially in many rivers and streams of the United States over reference conditions, and strong shifts in N and P stoichiometry have occurred as well; (3) bioassays often indicate N responses alone or in concert with P responses for autotrophic (primary production and chlorophyll) and heterotrophic (respiration) responses; (4) both heterotrophic and autotrophic processes are influenced by the availability of N and P; and (5) N-fixing cyanobacteria usually do not seem to be able to fully satisfy N limitations in rivers and streams when P is present in excess of N. These data suggest both N and P control should be considered in the eutrophication management of streams.
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