Imbalance of global nutrient cycles exacerbated by the greater retention of phosphorus over nitrogen in lakes

Zhen Wu, Jincheng Li, Yanxin Sun, Josep Peñuelas, Jilin Huang, Jordi Sardans, Qingsong Jiang, Jacques C. Finlay, Gregory L. Britten, Michael J. Follows, Wei Gao, Boqiang Qin, Jinren Ni, Shouliang Huo, Yong Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Imbalanced anthropogenic inputs of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) have significantly increased the ratio between N and P globally, degrading ecosystem productivity and environmental quality. Lakes represent a large global nutrient sink, modifying the flow of N and P in the environment. It remains unknown, however, the relative retention of these two nutrients in global lakes and their role in the imbalance of the nutrient cycles. Here we compare the ratio between P and N in inflows and outflows of more than 5,000 lakes globally using a combination of nutrient budget model and generalized linear model. We show that over 80% of global lakes positively retain both N and P, and almost 90% of the lakes show preferential retention of P. The greater retention of P over N leads to a strong elevation in the ratios between N and P in the lake outflow, exacerbating the imbalance of N and P cycles unexpectedly and potentially leading to biodiversity losses within lakes and algal blooms in downstream N-limited coastal zones. The management of N or P in controlling lake eutrophication has long been debated. Our results suggest that eutrophication management that prioritizes the reduction of P in lakes—which causes a further decrease in P in outflows—may unintentionally aggravate N/P imbalances in global ecosystems. Our results also highlight the importance of nutrient retention stoichiometry in global lake management to benefit watershed and regional biogeochemical cycles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)464-468
Number of pages5
JournalNature Geoscience
Volume15
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank H. Guo, Y. Qin and L. Cao for helpful discussion. We also thank High-performance Computing Platform of Peking University for providing computing resources. The present work was financially supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (42142047 to Y.L., 51721006 to Y.L. and J.N.), Simons Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship (645921 to G.L.B.), Simons Collaboration on Ocean Processes and Ecology (SCOPE 329108 to M.J.F.), Simons Collaboration for Computational Biogeochemical Modeling of marine Ecosystems (CBIOMES 549931 to M.J.F.), Spanish Government Grant (PID2019-110521GB-I00 and PID2020-115770RB-I00 to J.P. and J.S.) and Fundación Ramón Areces Grant (ELEMENTAL-CLIMATE to J.P. and J.S.).

Funding Information:
We thank H. Guo, Y. Qin and L. Cao for helpful discussion. We also thank High-performance Computing Platform of Peking University for providing computing resources. The present work was financially supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (42142047 to Y.L., 51721006 to Y.L. and J.N.), Simons Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship (645921 to G.L.B.), Simons Collaboration on Ocean Processes and Ecology (SCOPE 329108 to M.J.F.), Simons Collaboration for Computational Biogeochemical Modeling of marine Ecosystems (CBIOMES 549931 to M.J.F.), Spanish Government Grant (PID2019-110521GB-I00 and PID2020-115770RB-I00 to J.P. and J.S.) and Fundación Ramón Areces Grant (ELEMENTAL-CLIMATE to J.P. and J.S.).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited.

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