Phosphorus in sediments

BGS Research — Soils and landscapes

Phosphorus (P) is often called a ‘legacy contaminant’ in river sediments, as it can affect water quality for a long time after it enters a river systems with the major sources being attached to soil particles or discharged from sewage treatment works. Its presence can have a large impact on whether ‘Good Ecological Status’ can be achieved in rivers, as it is a key limiting nutrient for growth in fresh water. In excess, it can cause algal blooms and a loss of biodiversity.

River with algae
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Phosphorus lost from agriculture can be a major source of eutrophication in rivers, streams and lakes. BGS © UKRI.

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Recent work has focused on the role of soils on the transfer of P to river sediments in the UK, with studies being undertaken on the River Nene and the River Thames. A new project is being initiated to examine the speciation of P in sediments from the rivers and estuaries feeding an area of Lake Victoria.


If you want to discover more then please contact Andy Tye.

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