The role of periphyton in phosphorus retention in shallow freshwater aquatic systems

TitleThe role of periphyton in phosphorus retention in shallow freshwater aquatic systems
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2003
AuthorsDodds, WK
JournalJournal of Phycology
Pagination830 -849
Accession NumberKNZ00888
Keywordseutrophication, microalgae, microphytobenthos, periphyton, phosphate, Phosphorus, tertiary treatment, water quality

Eutrophication caused by phosphorus (P) leads to water quality problems in aquatic systems, particularly freshwaters, worldwide. Processing of nutrients in shallow habitats removes P from water naturally and periphyton influences P removal from the water column in flowing waters and wetlands. Periphyton plays several roles in removing P from the water column, including P uptake and deposition, filtering particulate P from the water, and attenuating flow, which decreases advective transport of particulate and dissolved P from sediments. Furthermore, periphyton photosynthesis locally increases pH by up to 1 unit, which can lead to increased precipitation of calcium phosphate, concurrent deposition of carbonate-phosphate complexes, and long-term burial of P. Actively photosynthesizing periphyton can cause super-saturated O2 concentrations near the sediment surface encouraging deposition of metal phosphates. However, anoxia associated with periphyton respiration at night may offset this effect. Linking the small-scale functional role of periphyton to ecosystem-level P retention will require more detailed studies in a variety of ecosystems or large mesocosms. A case study from the Everglades illustrates the importance of considering the role of periphyton in P removal from wetlands. In general, periphyton tends to increase P retention and deposition. In pilot-scale constructed periphyton-dominated wetlands in South Florida, about half of the inflowing total P was removed.