Despite decades of clean-up attempts, world's lakes still suffer from phosphorus pollution

July 11, 2016, University of Southern Denmark

Leading scientists warn that phosphorus pollution is a major concern. Accelerated recovery treatments of lakes are required to improve and preserve freshwater quality. In a series of studies published in a special issue of the journal Water Research, leading scientists assess how to control phosphorus pollution in lakes.

"In 40 percent of Europe's lakes, the water quality does not meet the demands of EUs Water Framework Directive, mainly due to phosphorus pollution. That is a huge problem for biodiversity and society and we need to put an effort into developing effective approaches to restore these lakes," says Associate Professor Kasper Reitzel, Department of Biology, University of Southern Denmark.

Together with colleagues Sara Egemose and Henning S. Jensen, Reitzel is co-author of several contributions in a special issue of the journal Water Research. Kasper Reitzel is also co-editor. They are experts in lake restoration and are associated with the Villum Kann Rasmussen Centre of Excellence, Centre for Lake Restoration, (CLEAR).

The special issue of Water Research brings together 60 authors from 12 countries. In a press release, the journal writes, "Phosphorus is the biggest cause of water quality degradation worldwide, causing 'dead zones,' toxic algal blooms, loss of biodiversity and increased health risks for the plants, animals and humans that come in contact with polluted waters.

"After decades with run-off from agriculture, human sewage and industrial practices, phosphorus has been stockpiled at an alarming rate in lake bed sediments. The scale of the problem is daunting, and despite major attempts to reduce the runoff, human activities are still pumping 10 million tonnes of extra phosphorus into freshwater sources every year.

"Long-term monitoring activities following the fate of phosphorus in lakes show that plants and animals don't recover for many years, even if the phosphorus load is decreased. This is because phosphorus stored in bed sediments is released back to the column and recycled in the lake."

So-called geo-engineering in lakes is widely used to clean . Frequently used methods include addition of aluminum salts or modified clays into the lake to lock excess stored in the sediments.

"However, results have not always been good. Often, managers use geo-engineering uncritically in lakes where the reductions in external loading of phosphorous are insufficient, or have applied too low dosage because of cost," says Sara Egemose, Department of Biology, University of Southern Denmark.

The special issue brings a scientific update on geo-engineering of lakes which Danish researchers in CLEAR have translated into guidelines for restoration of Danish lakes in cooperation with the Danish Nature Agency.

Explore further: Cleaning up decades of phosphorus pollution in lakes

Related Stories

Cleaning up decades of phosphorus pollution in lakes

June 6, 2016

Phosphorus is the biggest cause of water quality degradation worldwide, causing 'dead zones', toxic algal blooms, a loss of biodiversity and increased health risks for the plants, animals and humans that come in contact with ...

Tracing the course of phosphorus pollution in Lake Pepin

November 11, 2014

In recent years, many lakes in the upper Midwest have been experiencing unprecedented algae blooms. These blooms threaten fish and affect recreational activities. A key culprit implicated in overgrowth of algae in lakes is ...

Study pinpoints nutrient behind fresh water algae blooms

August 22, 2012

University of Alberta ecologist David Schindler has reviewed data from studies of controlling human-caused algae blooms in lakes and says controlling the input of the nutrient phosphorus is the key to fighting the problem.

Noxious algae gone, but who knows how long

January 3, 2007

Recent storms may have washed away algae blooms in a Florida chain of lakes, but experts said algae threats remain because of pollution feeding the lakes.

Recommended for you

In small groups, people follow high-performing leaders

February 21, 2019

While the "wisdom of the crowd" shapes the behavior of large groups of people, less is known about small-group dynamics and how individuals interact to make decisions, particularly when it comes to the emergence of leaders, ...

Researchers make coldest quantum gas of molecules

February 21, 2019

JILA researchers have made a long-lived, record-cold gas of molecules that follow the wave patterns of quantum mechanics instead of the strictly particle nature of ordinary classical physics. The creation of this gas boosts ...

Sculpting stable structures in pure liquids

February 21, 2019

Oscillating flow and light pulses can be used to create reconfigurable architecture in liquid crystals. Materials scientists can carefully engineer concerted microfluidic flows and localized optothermal fields to achieve ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.