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J Environ Monit. 2011 Oct;13(10):2844-50. doi: 10.1039/c1em10482a. Epub 2011 Sep 13.

Size distribution and composition of phosphorus in the East Tiao River, China: the significant role of colloids.

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Key Laboratory for Water Pollution Control and Environmental Safety, Zhejiang Province, Hangzhou, 310029, China.


The environmental risk of aquatic phosphorus (P) critically depends on its mobility and bioavailability, both of which are greatly affected by the size distribution and composition of P. The size distribution (particulate, colloidal and truly dissolved phase) of P, composed of molybdate reactive P (MRP) and molybdate unreactive P (MUP), was determined at twenty-three typical sections of the East Tiao River, China in the plum rain season. Results indicated particulate P was dominant followed by the truly dissolved P, while colloidal P was quantitatively the lowest in the whole river. From upstream to downstream, particulate P sharply increased, along with a slight decrease of truly dissolved P. However, colloidal P remained at a relatively stable level in the whole river, ranging from below detection limit to 0.025 mg L(-1), 0 to 13.4% of total P (TP). Furthermore, colloidal MRP exhibited a rising trend downriver as compared to upriver, with the notable transfer of MRP from the truly dissolved phase to particulate and colloidal phases. Particle concentration effect for colloids, observed in the study of MRP distribution, further corroborated the role of colloids in MRP solid/liquid partitioning. These observations, in this large-scale field investigation, fitted the "colloidal pumping" hypothesis. It may be concluded that colloids act as the intermediate and buffer in the dynamically balanced transfer of P from truly dissolved phase to large particulate phase, having a significant role in size distribution of P.

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