Shallow lakes can switch suddenly from a turbid situation with high concentrations of phytoplankton and other suspended solids to a vegetated state with clear water, and vice versa. These alternative stable states may have a substantial impact on the fate of hydrophobic organic compounds (HOCs). Models that are fit to simulate impacts from these complex interactions are scarce. We developed a contaminant fate model which is linked to an ecosystem model (PCLake) for shallow lakes. This integrated model was successful in simulating long-term dynamics (1953-2012) of representative polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in the main biotic and abiotic components in a large shallow lake (Chaohu in China), which has undergone regime shifts in this period. Historical records from sediment cores were used to evaluate the model. The model revealed that regime shifts in shallow lakes had a strong impact on the fate of less hydrophobic compounds due to the large storage capacity of macrophytes, which accumulated up to 55.6% of phenanthrene in the clear state. The abrupt disappearance of macrophytes after the regime shift resulted in a sudden change in phenanthrene distribution, as the sediment became the major sink. For more hydrophobic compounds such as benzo(a)pyrene, the modeled impact of the regime shift was negligible for the whole environment, yet large for biotic compartments. This study is the first to provide a full mechanistic analysis of the impact of regime shifts on the fate of PAHs in a real lake ecosystem.
Kong, X., He, W., Qin, N., Liu, W., Yang, B., Yang, C., ... Koelmans, A. A. (2017). Integrated ecological and chemical food web accumulation modeling explains PAH temporal trends during regime shifts in a shallow lake. Water Research, 119, 73-82. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.watres.2017.04.042