A blooming business: Identifying limits to Lake Taihu's nutrient input

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


Last century, Lake Taihu (China) became serious eutrophic due to excessive nutrient input. During the 1980s, the first algal blooms emerged in the lake, reaching disastrous proportions in 2007. During that year, the intake of drinking water had to be shut down and millions of people had to look for an alternative source of drinking water. This raises the question whether such problems can be avoided. Of crucial importance in avoiding and reducing toxic algal blooms is the identification of the maximum nutrient load ecosystems can absorb, while remaining in a good ecological state. In this thesis, I aim to determine the critical nutrient load for Lake Taihu. I approach the search for critical nutrient loads of Lake Taihu in five steps with diversity as an overarching topic throughout this thesis: diversity in lakes, diversity in models, diversity in spatial distribution of nutrient and water sources, diversity in the development of lakes around the earth and finally diversity within specific lakes. From the long list of available models I chose the model PCLake to use in my analysis because it is the most extensively used food web model applied for bifurcation analysis of shallow aquatic ecosystems. The approach has resulted in a range of critical nutrient loads for different parts of Lake Taihu. Furthermore, critical nutrient loads depend on management goals, i.e. the maximum allowable chlorophyll-a concentration. According to the model results, total nutrient loads need to be more than halved to reach chlorophyll-a concentrations of 30-40 μg.L-1 in most sections of the lake. To prevent phytoplankton blooms with 20 μg.L-1 chlorophyll-a throughout Lake Taihu, both phosphorus and nitrogen loads need a nearly 90% reduction. This range contrasts to the single point of recovery that is often found for small shallow lakes. The range in critical nutrient loads found for Lake Taihu can be interpreted as providing a path of recovery for which each step leads to water quality improvement in certain parts of the lake. To reach total recovery, nutrient reduction seems to be the most promising management option.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • Mooij, Wolf, Promotor
  • Janse, J.H., Co-promotor, External person
  • van Dam, A.A., Co-promotor, External person
Award date16 Jun 2017
Place of PublicationWageningen
Print ISBNs9789463431897
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jun 2017


  • lakes
  • freshwater ecology
  • aquatic ecosystems
  • nutrients
  • cycling
  • nutrient flows
  • biodiversity
  • algae
  • models
  • critical loads
  • limnology
  • spatial variation
  • ecological restoration
  • china


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