Relationships among nutrients, chlorophyll-a, and dissolved oxygen in agricultural streams in Illinois

J Environ Qual. 2006 May 31;35(4):1110-7. doi: 10.2134/jeq2005.0433. Print 2006 Jul-Aug.


A better understanding of the controls on algae and dissolved O2 in agricultural streams of Illinois is needed to aid in development of nutrient standards. We investigated the relationships between dissolved nutrients, algal abundance, and dissolved O2 in five streams in east-central Illinois from March through November 2004. The streams drained watersheds from 25 to 777 km2 that were dominated by row crop agriculture. Three sites had open canopies and two were bordered by a narrow forest of deciduous trees. Algal abundance was measured as chlorophyll-a (chl-a) concentration in the water column (sestonic) and on the streambed (periphytic). Mean NO3-N concentrations ranged from 5.5 to 8.8 mg N L(-1) and did not relate to algal abundance. Sestonic chl-a values ranged from nearly zero to >15 mg m(-3) with no differences between open and shaded streams and only a weak correlation with dissolved reactive P (mean concentrations were 44-479 microg L(-1)). The results suggest that sestonic chl-a is a poor criterion for assessing nutrient-related problems in these streams. Greatest periphytic chl-a occurred during low flow from August through October, but periphyton occurred consistently in only two of the five streams. The abundance of filamentous algae explained 64% of the variation in diel O2 saturation, but was not correlated with nutrients. Currently it appears that hydrology and light, rather than nutrients, control algal abundance in these streams, and in the agricultural landscape of east-central Illinois, it may not be possible to reduce nutrient concentrations sufficiently to limit filamentous algal blooms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture
  • Carbon / analysis
  • Chlorophyll / analysis*
  • Chlorophyll A
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Eukaryota / growth & development
  • Illinois
  • Nitrogen / analysis*
  • Oxygen / analysis*
  • Oxygen / chemistry
  • Phosphorus / analysis*
  • Rivers / chemistry*
  • Water Pollutants / analysis*


  • Water Pollutants
  • Chlorophyll
  • Phosphorus
  • Carbon
  • Nitrogen
  • Oxygen
  • Chlorophyll A