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Internal loading of phosphorus in a sedimentation pond of a treatment wetland: Effect of a phytoplankton crash

By Elizabeth J. Palmer-Felgate, Robert J.G. Mortimer, Michael D. Krom, Helen P. Jarvie, Richard J. Williams, Rachael E. Spraggs and Charlie J. Stratford


Sedimentation ponds are widely believed to act as a primary removal process for phosphorus (P) in nutrient treatment wetlands. High frequency in-situ P, ammonium (NH4+) and dissolved oxygen measurements, alongside occasional water quality measurements, assessed changes in nutrient concentrations and productivity in the sedimentation pond of a treatment wetland between March and June. Diffusive equilibrium in thin films (DET) probes were used to measure in-situ nutrient and chemistry pore-water profiles. Diffusive fluxes across the sediment–water interface were calculated from the pore-water profiles, and dissolved oxygen was used to calculate rates of primary productivity and respiration. The sedimentation pond was a net sink for total P (TP), soluble reactive P (SRP) and NH4+ in March, but became subject to a net internal loading of TP, SRP and NH4+ in May, with SRP concentrations increasing by up to 41 μM (1300 μl− 1). Reductions in chlorophyll a and dissolved oxygen concentrations also occurred at this time. The sediment changed from a small net sink of SRP in March (average diffusive flux: − 8.2 μmol m− 2 day− 1) to a net source of SRP in June (average diffusive flux: + 1324 μmol m− 2 day− 1). A diurnal pattern in water column P concentrations, with maxima in the early hours of the morning, and minima in the afternoon, occurred during May. The diurnal pattern and release of SRP from the sediment were attributed to microbial degradation of diatom biomass, causing reduction of the dissolved oxygen concentration and leading to redox-dependent release of P from the sediment. In June, 2.7 mol-P day− 1 were removed by photosynthesis and 23 mol-P day− 1 were supplied by respiration in the lake volume. SRP was also released through microbial respiration within the water column, including the decomposition of algal matter. It is imperative that consideration to internal recycling is given when maintaining sedimentation ponds, and before the installation of new ponds designed to treat nutrient waste.\ud \u

Year: 2011
DOI identifier: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2011.02.034
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