Central Plains Center for Bioassessment

Lake Modeling Project Part II: An integrated assessment of the effects of internal phosphorus cycling and sediment resuspension on the eutrophication of lakes and reservoirs in the Central Plains

Stream with autosampler.
Date January 2005 - December 2007
Contact Donald Huggins
Location Eastern Kansas


This is a continuation of Lake Modeling Project Part I.  Reservoirs in agriculturally dominated watersheds are particularly vulnerable to eutrophication. External nutrient loading has been considered to be the main source of enrichment. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that internal mechanisms including direct flux from the sediment and re-suspension of surficial sediments can contribute significant amount of phosphorus (P) back into the water column. As a result, reductions in external nutrient loading alone may not effectively curb the negative processes associated with eutrophication.

Relatively little is known about internal nutrient recycling within reservoirs and streams in the Central Plains region. At the Central Plains Center for Bioassessment (CPCB) we have recently begun to study internal P-recycling in several TMDL reservoirs. Our initial research indicates that sediment P-recycling rates can be high, and vary both within and between reservoirs. Therefore, the CPCB proposes a comprehensive analysis of internal nutrient recycling in a series of TMDL reservoirs and their associated inflow streams in order to improve our understanding of relationships between sediment nutrient release, re-suspended sediments, and eutrophication in agriculturally devoted reservoirs.

To accomplish the primary objectives of this study, internal nutrient recycling in four TMDL reservoirs and their associated inflow streams are being studied over a one-year period using several complimentary approaches. First, sediment P-release studies are being conducted to determine nutrient release rates. In conjunction, the nutrient content of the sediment is being measured and entire sediment nutrient pools will be estimated for each reservoir. We have also initiated a research program to quantify sediment re-suspension rates within reservoirs, and the ecological impacts of these sediments on lake processes. A self-cleaning turbidity meter that collects measurement at 15-minute intervals has been placed near the bottom surface of each reservoir to document seasonal patterns and rates of sediment re-suspension. Based on these results, we are conducting bioassay sediment addition experiments to determine the direct effects of sediment re-suspension on water column nutrient concentrations and algal production. Finally, the comprehensive data collected from this proposed research will be combined with data from a current study of external nutrient loading in the same TMDL reservoirs. Collectively, these data will provide an accurate estimate of the relative contribution that internal nutrient recycling makes towards whole lake nutrient budgets. We believe that this research will provide a protocol for determining internal nutrient recycling rates within reservoirs of the Central Plains region.


Steve Wang

Donald Huggins