Journal of Great Lakes Research, Volume 48, Issue 1

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Elsevier BV
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Phosphorus retention and transformation in a dammed reservoir of the Thames River, Ontario: Impacts on phosphorus load and speciation
N. Kao | Maryati Mohamed | Ryan J. Sorichetti | Amanda Niederkorn | Philippe Van Cappellen | Chris T. Parsons

Extensive efforts are underway to reduce phosphorus (P) export from the Lake Erie watershed. On the Canadian side, the Thames River is the largest tributary source of P to Lake Erie’s western basin. However, the role of dams in retaining and modifying riverine P loading to the lake has not been comprehensively evaluated. We assessed whether Fanshawe Reservoir, the largest dam reservoir on the Thames River, acts as a source or sink of P, using year-round discharge and water chemistry data collected in 2018 and 2019. We also determined how in-reservoir processes alter P speciation by comparing the dissolved reactive P to total P ratio (DRP:TP) in upstream and downstream loads. Annually, Fanshawe Reservoir was a net sink for P, retaining 25% (36 tonnes) and 47% (91 tonnes) of TP in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Seasonally, the reservoir oscillated between a source and sink of P. Net P release occurred during the spring of 2018 and the summers of 2018 and 2019, driven by internal P loading and hypolimnetic discharge from the dam. The reservoir did not exert a strong influence on DRP:TP annually, but ratio increases occurred during both summers, concurrent with water column stratification. Our analysis demonstrates that Fanshawe Reservoir is not only an important P sink on the Thames River, but also modulates the timing and speciation of P loads. We therefore propose that the potential of using existing dam reservoirs to attenuate downstream P loads should be more thoroughly explored alongside source based P mitigation strategies.