Response of a shallow Mediterranean lake to nutrient diversion: does it follow similar patterns as in northern shallow lakes?


Susana Romo, Unidad de Ecología, Facultad de Biología, Universitat de València, Campus Burjasot, E-46100 Burjasot, Valencia, Spain. E-mail:


1. In view of the paucity of data on the response of warm shallow lakes to reductions in nutrient loading, this paper presents a long-term limnological data set to document changes in the food-web of a shallow Mediterranean lake (Lake Albufera, Valencia, Spain) that has experienced reductions in phosphorus (P) (77%) and nitrogen (N) (24%) loading following sewage diversion.

2. Nine years after sewage diversion, P concentration in the lake was reduced by 30% but remained high (TP = 0.34 mg L−1), although the mean water retention time in the lake was only 0.1 years. Nitrate concentrations did not significantly change, probably because the lake continued to receive untreated effluents from ricefields.

3. Chlorophyll a concentration was reduced by half (annual mean of 180 μg L−1). Cyanobacteria abundance remained high but its composition changed towards smaller species, both filamentous and chroococcal forms.

4. Cladocera abundance increased and reached peaks twice a year (December to March and July to September). After nutrient reduction, short-term clear-water phases (up to 5 weeks) occurred during February to March in several years, concomitant with annual flushing of the lake and lower fish densities. The abundance of Cladocera in winter contrasted with the spring peaks observed in northern restored shallow lakes. The zooplankton to phytoplankton biomass ratio remained lower than in northern temperate shallow lakes, probably because of fish predation on zooplankton.

5. Improvement of the water quality of Lake Albufera remained insufficient to counteract littoral reed regression or improve underwater light allowing submerged plants re-colonise the lake.

6. Sewage diversion from Lake Albufera impacted the food web through the plankton, but higher trophic levels, such as fish and waterfowl, were affected to a lesser degree. Although the fish species present in the lake are mainly omnivorous, long-term data on commercial fish captures indicated that fish communities changed in response to nutrient level and trophic structure as has been observed in restored shallow lakes at northern latitudes.

7. Phosphorus concentrations produced similar phytoplankton biomass in Lake Albufera as in more northern shallow lakes with abundant planktivorous fish and small zooplankton. However, in Lake Albufera, high average concentrations were maintained throughout the year. Overall, results suggest that nutrient control may be a greater priority in eutrophicated warm shallow lakes than in similar lakes at higher latitudes.