Long-term declines in phosphorus export from forested catchments in south-central Ontario

Academic Article


  • Total phosphorus (TP) levels in many Canadian Shield lakes in central Ontario have declined over recent decades, despite increases in human activity in most watersheds. To investigate the contribution of changes in catchment export to long-term declines in lake TP, we examined temporal and spatial patterns in TP concentrations and export (1980-1981 to 2001-2002) across 11 subcatchments that drain into three lakes in which average ice-free TP levels have declined by approximately 35%. Annual stream export of TP decreased significantly by 30%-89% in eight of the 11 subcatchments, and decreases in export were driven by declines in TP concentration, not changes in stream flow. Annual average TP concentrations varied fivefold among adjacent subcatchments, and temporal patterns in annual average TP concentrations were poorly correlated. Seasonal patterns of TP concentration were most similar among streams in the spring (March-April-May), and TP export in the spring declined significantly in 10 of the 11 subcatchments. Because spring melt is the principal hydrologic event in these seasonally snow-covered basins, decreases in TP export during the spring were primarily responsible for declines observed in annual export. The drivers of changes in TP over time are unclear at this point but are the focus of current research.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Pubmed Id

  • 25448456
  • Author List

  • Catherine Eimers M; Watmough SA; Paterson AM; Dillon PJ; Yao H
  • Start Page

  • 1682
  • End Page

  • 1692
  • Volume

  • 66
  • Issue

  • 10