Phytoplankton nutrient use and CO2 dynamics responding to long-term changes in riverine N and P availability

Dohee Kim, Ju Hee Lim, Yewon Chun, Omme Kulsum Nayna, Most Shirina Begum, Ji Hyung Park

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12 Scopus citations


Long-term trends in riverine nutrient availability have rarely been linked to both phytoplankton composition and functioning. To explore how the changing availability of N and P affects not only phytoplankton abundance and composition but also the resource use efficiency of N, P, and CO2, a 25-year time series of water quality in the lower Han River, Korea, was combined with additional measurements of riverine dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and CO2. Despite persistent eutrophication, recent decreases in P relative to N have been steep in the lowest reach, increasing the annual mean mass ratio of N to P (N/P) from 24 (1994–2015) to 65 (2016–2018). While Chl a and cyanobacterial abundance exhibited overall positive and inverse relationships with P concentrations and N/P, respectively, severe harmful algal blooms (HABs) concurred with short-term increases in P and temperature. Microcystis often dominated HABs at low N/P that usually favors N-fixing cyanobacteria such as Anabaena. In the middle and lower reaches, phytoplanktonic P use efficiency was typically lower at low N/P. V-shaped relationships between N/P and CO2 concentrations, together with longitudinal upward shifts in the inverse relationship between Chl a and CO2, implied that eutrophication-enhanced phytoplankton biomass could turn into a significant source of CO2. after passing a threshold. The combined results suggest that cyanobacterial dominance co-limited by P availability and temperature can lower planktonic P use efficiency, while enhancing riverine CO2 emissions at low N/P ratios.

Original languageEnglish
Article number117510
JournalWater Research
StatePublished - 15 Sep 2021

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  • Carbon dioxide
  • Dissolved organic carbon
  • Harmful algal bloom
  • Phytoplankton community
  • Resource use efficiency
  • River eutrophication


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