Phosphorus is a critical element determining trophic status and Chlorophyll a (Chl a) level in natural lakes and reservoirs, and total phosphorus (TP) concentrations can be predicted from data on phosphorus loading, hydraulic flushing rate and sedimentation. Due to their interactions with phosphorus, iron (hydr) oxides in suspended particles, originally derived from watershed soil, can strongly influence the phosphorus sedimentation and phosphorus bioavailability in water columns. Thus, the TP-precipitation relationship and the response of Chl a to TP are likely associated with watersheds soil iron. To test this assumption, we built hierarchical linear models for summer observation of natural lakes and reservoirs across a large geographic gradient. The intercepts and slopes of TP-precipitation relationships are higher in natural lakes than those in reservoirs, and these model coefficients exhibit latitudinal variations that are explained by the natural soil iron gradient. Soil iron, operating at a regional level, significantly mediates the effect of precipitation on TP concentration in both natural lakes and reservoirs, and drives the latitudinal variation in the Chl a-TP relationships for reservoirs. Our results imply that the increase in extreme precipitation events anticipated under future climate conditions may substantially mitigate eutrophication in tropical and subtropical reservoirs, but may worsen conditions in temperate lakes.
Keywords: Chlorophyll a; Hierarchical model; Phosphorus; Regional scale; Soil iron.
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