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Sci Total Environ. 2002 Jan 23;282-283:25-47.

Phosphorus in rivers--ecology and management.

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English Nature, Peterborough, UK.


This paper examines the nature of the risk to riverine ecosystems from artificially enhanced loads of phosphorus, considers the key sources of phosphorus enrichment and ways of controlling them, and provides a framework for developing control strategies. The aquatic plant community is the foundation for a healthy and diverse riverine ecosystem, providing food, shelter and breeding habitats for a wide range of animal species. Phosphorus enrichment in rivers can degrade the plant community by altering the competitive balance between different aquatic plant species, including both higher plants and algae. This has consequences for the whole ecosystem. To promote healthy riverine plant communities and the wide range of animal species dependent on them, phosphorus concentrations need to be reduced to as near to background levels as possible. The risk of adverse effects declines as phosphorus concentrations approach background levels, such that any incremental reduction should be seen as a positive step towards trophic restoration. Pragmatic management targets vary between 0.02 and 0.1 mg(-1) soluble reactive phosphorus, depending on river type, with an interim target of 0.2 mg(-1) for heavily enriched rivers. Continuous point sources of phosphorus, dominated by sewage treatment works, have a highly important influence on levels of bioavailable phosphorus in the water column through the growing season. It is important to tackle point sources comprehensively so that reductions in phosphorus concentrations are maximised during this critical time of year. Diffuse sources of phosphorus, particularly from agriculture, are a major contributor to phosphorus levels in riverine sediments, where it can be utilised by benthic algae and rooted plants. This phosphorus can also be released into the water column by a variety of processes. As point sources are brought under control, the relative contribution from diffuse sources becomes increasingly important. An integrated programme of control, involving proactive action on both point and diffuse sources, will be required in most circumstances to bring phosphorus levels in the water column and sediment down to near background levels.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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