Reconstruction of the total N and P inputs from the IJsselmeer into the western Wadden Sea between 1935-1998

W van Raaphorst, V N de Jonge*

*Corresponding author for this work

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    In this paper we reconstruct the Total Nitrogen (TN) and Total Phosphorus (TP) inputs into the western Wadden Sea from its major freshwater source the lake IJsselmeer between 1935-1998. The reconstruction is based on the TN and TP loads of the river Rhine at the German/Dutch border and follows the aquatic continuum approach to calculate loads further downstream in (1) the river IJssel feeding the IJsselmeer, and (2) the discharge of this lake into the western Wadden Sea. Our objectives are to determine (1) how the signal of changing nutrient loads of the Rhine is transferred downstream, and (2) how hydrological changes in the rivers-and-lake system affected the TN and TP discharges into the western Wadden Sea. Observational data from which TN and TP loads of the river Rhine could be calculated date back to the 1960s and we used background loads for European rivers for the period before World War II. The period in between was interpolated using the historic scenarios of watershed land use and management tested for the hypothetical Phison river (Billen and Gamier, 1997, Aquat. Microb. Ecol. 13, 3-17), adapted for the hydrology of the Rhine. The interpolations were constrained by loads of dissolved inorganic TN and P compounds, for which data go back to the 1930s. Using the reconstructed loads of the river Rhine, TN and TP loads of the river IJssel and the lake IJsselmeer were calculated with simple mass balance models that were calibrated against data available from 1972-1993 onwards. Results show a gradual 12-fold increase of the TN discharge of the IJsselmeer into the Wadden Sea from 1935 to 1988, after which it decreased to levels still similar to 5 fold those in 1935. The discharge of TP increased more abruptly in the early 1960s to values in 1983 similar to 10 fold those before 1965, followed by a sharp decrease to values still similar to 2.5 fold those before 1965. These patterns resemble those in the river Rhine, but are modified due to (1) variability of other sources to the lake, and (2) reduction of the retention capacity of the lake due to enormous land reclamation. TN:TP atomic ratios in the freshwater input to the Wadden Sea as high as 100 in 1995 were caused by successful P reduction programmes, less successful N reduction and N-rich inputs from smaller rivers and land runoff into the lake IJsselmeer. Land reclamation caused the lake's retention of TN to decrease step-wise from similar to 70% to similar to 45-50% and that of TP from 85% to 55-60% between 1950 and 1980. (C) 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)109-131
    Number of pages23
    JournalJournal of Sea Research
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Mar-2004


    • TN
    • TP
    • time series
    • nutrient reconstruction
    • western Wadden Sea
    • LAKES

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