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Recent studies suggest that nitrogen additions to increase the total nitrogen:total phosphorus (TN:TP) ratio may reduce cyanobacterial biovolume and microcystin concentration in reservoirs. In systems where TP is <100 μg/L, however, nitrogen additions to increase the TN:TP ratio could cause ammonia, nitrate, or nitrite toxicity to terrestrial and aquatic organisms. Reducing phosphorus via aluminum sulfate (alum) may be needed prior to nitrogen additions aimed at increasing the TN:TP ratio. We experimentally tested this sequential management approach in large in situ mesocosms (70.7 m3) to examine effects on cyanobacteria and microcystin concentration. Because alum removes nutrients and most seston from the water column, alum treatment reduced both TN and TP, leaving post-treatment TN:TP ratios similar to pre-treatment ratios. Cyanobacterial biovolume was reduced after alum addition, but the percent composition (i.e., relative) cyanobacterial abundance remained unchanged. A single ammonium nitrate (nitrogen) addition increased the TN:TP ratio 7-fold. After the TN:TP ratio was >50 (by weight), cyanobacterial biovolume and abundance were reduced, and chrysophyte and cryptophyte biovolume and abundance increased compared to the alum treatment. Microcystin was not detectable until the TN:TP ratio was < 50. Although both treatments reduced cyanobacteria, only the nitrogen treatment seemed to stimulate energy flow from primary producers to zooplankton, which suggests that combining alum and nitrogen treatments may be a viable in-lake management strategy to reduce cyanobacteria and possibly microcystin concentrations in high-phosphorus systems. Additional studies are needed to define best management practices before combined alum and nitrogen additions are implemented as a reservoir management strategy. © Copyright by the North American Lake Management Society 2014.
Harris, T. D., Wilhelm, F. M., Graham, J. L., & Loftin, K. A. (2014). Experimental additions of aluminum sulfate and ammonium nitrate to in situ mesocosms to reduce cyanobacterial biovolume and microcystin concentration. Lake and Reservoir Management, 30(1), 84–93. https://doi.org/10.1080/10402381.2013.876132