Effects of changes in nutrient loading and composition on hypoxia dynamics and internal nutrient cycling of a stratified coastal lagoon
The effects of changes in catchment nutrient loading and composition on the phytoplankton dynamics, development of hypoxia and internal nutrient dynamics in a stratified coastal lagoon system (the Gippsland Lakes) were investigated using a 3-D coupled hydrodynamic biogeochemical water quality model. The study showed that primary production was equally sensitive to changed dissolved inorganic and particulate organic nitrogen loads, highlighting the need for a better understanding of particulate organic matter bioavailability. Stratification and sediment carbon enrichment were the main drivers for the hypoxia and subsequent sediment phosphorus release in Lake King. High primary production stimulated by large nitrogen loading brought on by a winter flood contributed almost all the sediment carbon deposition (as opposed to catchment loads), which was ultimately responsible for summer bottom-water hypoxia. Interestingly, internal recycling of phosphorus was more sensitive to changed nitrogen loads than total phosphorus loads, highlighting the potential importance of nitrogen loads exerting a control over systems that become phosphorus limited (such as during summer nitrogen-fixing blooms of cyanobacteria). Therefore, the current study highlighted the need to reduce both total nitrogen and total phosphorus for water quality improvement in estuarine systems.