Internal cycling, not external loading, decides the nutrient limitation in eutrophic lake: A dynamic model with temporal Bayesian hierarchical inference

Zhen Wu, Yong Liu, Zhongyao Liang, Sifeng Wu, Huaicheng Guo

Abstract: Lake eutrophication is associated with excessive anthropogenic nutrients (mainly nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P)) and unobserved internal nutrient cycling. Despite the advances in understanding the role of external loadings, the contribution of internal nutrient cycling is still an open question. A dynamic mass-balance model was developed to simulate and measure the contributions of internal cycling and external loading. It was based on the temporal Bayesian Hierarchical Framework (BHM), where we explored the seasonal patterns in the dynamics of nutrient cycling processes and the limitation of N and P on phytoplankton growth in hyper-eutrophic Lake Dianchi, China. The dynamic patterns of the five state variables (Chla, TP, ammonia, nitrate and organic N) were simulated based on the model. Five parameters (algae growth rate, sediment exchange rate of N and P, nitrification rate and denitrification rate) were estimated based on BHM. The model provided a good fit to observations. Our model results highlighted the role of internal cycling of N and P in Lake Dianchi. The internal cycling processes contributed more than external loading to the N and P changes in the water column. Further insights into the nutrient limitation analysis indicated that the sediment exchange of P determined the P limitation. Allowing for the contribution of denitrification to N removal, N was the more limiting nutrient most of the time, however, P was the more important nutrient for eutrophication management. For Lake Dianchi, it would not be possible to recover solely by reducing the external watershed nutrient load; the mechanisms of internal cycling should also be considered as an approach to inhibit the release of sediments and to enhance denitrification.
Keywords: Internal cycling; Nutrient limitation; Bayesian hierarchical inference; Sediment change; Lake dianchi